Apollo 11 + 50
★ ★ ★ ★
50 years ago today: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, photographed by Neil Armstrong
2019 July 20
The first lunar landing was a feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, a Space Race victory,
and one of the most misunderstood events in the history of the world.
In practical terms, Apollo 11 was meaningless. To say that it represents the beginning of what will one day be the expansion
of humanity's horizons into outer space seems not only unlikely but inhuman. The lunar adventure yielded practically nothing
of scientific value that could not have been just as easily acquired by a robot.
The Moon landing was above all a triumph of our aesthetic sense. What Goethe began at Weimar in 1789 ended in August 1969.
Apollo 11 was the culmination of the Romantic cult of the sublime prefigured in the speculations of Burke and Kant, an artistic
juxtaposition of man against a brutal environment upon which to project his fears, his sympathies, his urge to transcendence.
The lunar landing was a performance, a space opera, a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk that brought together the efforts of more
than 400,000 people, performed before an audience of some 650 million. It was a victory, as Armstrong said, not of Western
democratic capitalism over Soviet tyranny, or of America over the rest of the world, but for humanity.
Vladimir Nabokov: "I am puzzled and pained by the fact that the English weeklies ignored the absolutely overwhelming excitement
of the adventure, the strange sensual exhilaration of palpating those precious pebbles, of seeing our marbled globe in the black sky,
of feeling along one's spine the shiver and wonder of it. After all, Englishmen should understand that thrill, they who have been
the greatest, the purest explorers. Why then drag in such irrelevant matters as wasted dollars and power politics?"
Apollo is a work of art created for the ennoblement of our species.
Apollo 11 lunar excursion module Eagle separates from command module in lunar orbit
★ ★ ★ ★
Apollo 11 + 50
Etwa 3/4 der Deutschen
bewerten die Ernennung von
A new way to measure
the Hubble constant
gets a new answer
FDP findet Annegret
AR Ich auch.
2019 July 19
"Send Her Back!"
The New York Times
Donald Trump has chosen to ground his politics and his presidency in fomenting racial hatred. At a rally on Wednesday, he smeared Representative
Ilhan Omar of Minnesota as trafficking in "vicious anti-Semitic screeds" and went on to attack the three other freshman representatives, all
women of color. He thinks this approach will win him another four years in the White House.
AR Find a hot button and jab at it until the crowds roar — tactic of demagogues everywhere.
No Way Out
UK public finances would deteriorate by £30 billion a year in a "relatively benign" no-deal Brexit scenario, says the
Office for Budget Responsibility. The OBR was created in 2010 to provide independent and authoritative
analysis of UK public finances.
AR Strike no-deal off the menu. Strike the fools who threaten it off the ballot paper. Such threats are no way to conduct
negotiations with friends and partners.
Brexit and Europe
Ursula von der Leyen
A hard Brexit is a bad outcome for both sides. We have a good withdrawal agreement, which was negotiated properly in accordance with the red lines drawn
by the UK government. We need to strive for an orderly Brexit.
If our British friends offer good reasons for an extension, I am open to listening to them. The way we carry out Brexit will determine our
future relationship with our neighbor, the UK. Both sides have an interest in an orderly and good beginning to our future relationships.
On climate change, the worst-case scenario will come about if we don't act with determination, namely rapidly intensifying change with all
its consequences. The clock is ticking, and we have to act. Polluting the environment has to come at a price. Compared to the rest of the world, our
industry is already doing well at climate-friendly technology, but we have to get better.
On member states taking in refugees, I think we have to listen to the arguments. For example, the Poles make the justified point that they
have taken in 1.5 million people from Ukraine.
My dream of a United States of Europe has become more mature and more realistic. In the European Union we have unity in diversity. That
is something different to federalism. I think that is the right path.
AR My advice to the next UK prime minister: Revoke, Remain, Reconcile.
2019 July 18
Alliance Against Prorogation
MPs passed a backbench amendment aiming to block any attempt by a future government to prorogue parliament to ensure a no-deal Brexit by 315 votes for
and 274 against.
Laura Kuenssberg: "The new rebel alliance in parliament has shown its strength."
Enriching the Queen
The Crown Estate, which manages the Queen's property portfolio, holds exclusive rights to lease the seabed around the British Isles for wind and wave power.
Its profits go to the Treasury, which then sends 25% back to the royal household in the form of the sovereign grant.
AR Nice little earner there. No wonder she's so rich. This needs changing.
Advising the Queen
Retired Supreme Court Judge Lord Sumption says legal challenges to prevent Boris Johnson from suspending parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit would
fail if the Queen agreed to a suspension requested by her prime minister. A committee of privy counsellors might advise her on the constitutional
propriety of such requests.
AR Perhaps the Queen could earn her pay by saying no to Boris.
The Fate of the Universe
The expansion of our universe is accelerating: We live in a de Sitter spacetime. In 2003, Shamit Kachru, Renata Kallosh, Andrei Linde, and Sandip Trivedi
(KKLT) came up with a complicated way to construct de Sitter spacetime from string theory.
String theory works at high energies. To describe a spacetime at lower energies, we must use string theory to find an effective field theory.
The exact spacetime you get using the KKLT construction depends on how the extra dimensions of string theory are compactified and how electromagnetic
fluxes thread through these geometries.
String theorists shows this can be done in at least 10500 ways, each giving a different de Sitter spacetime. The result is a multiverse in which
every conceivable spacetime can exist.
Cumrun Vafa was unhappy with the KKLT construction. He asked whether all possible effective field theories can emerge from string theory.
A string theory should outlaw effective field theories that fail to include gravity. Such variants should be relegated to a patch of the multiverse he
calls the Swampland.
Vafa proposes that all effective field theories for a universe where dark energy is a cosmological constant belong to the Swampland. He
suggests a dark energy density that decreases with time. But a gap between the results of two ways to measure the Hubble constant is
explained only if dark energy density increases with time.
Vafa says weakening dark energy affects dark matter in string theory: "What that typically means is that a new dimension opens up. So it's
a completely new universe, which is not describable in terms of the language of our current universe. A completely new phase takes over."
2019 July 17
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
China promised to preserve and respect the freedoms of Hong Kong citizens but exerts intense pressure on Taiwan and is strengthening its military presence
in the South China Sea. Europe has been erratic in its dealings with China. EU foreign policy is based on values, and we cannot continue ignoring the
fact that China bases its policies on a different set of values while its people seek rights we insist on for ourselves.
Frank H. Wu
Billionaire investor Peter Thiel asks whether the Chinese government has infiltrated Google AI research teams or senior management and if the Chinese
steal information. Google and other US technology firms rely on Chinese immigrants and Chinese American engineers. Instead of fearing Chinese
Americans will help China in achieving global dominance, Americans should inspire them to support the United States.
2019 July 16
EU-Parlament stimmt für von der Leyen
Der Spiegel, 1945 MESZ
Ursula von der Leyen hat die Wahl zur EU-Kommissionschefin für sich entschieden.
AR Ich gratuliere die Dame!
Alternative for Germany
Melanie Amann, Ann-Katrin Müller
The far-right "Flügel" of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is gaining ground. Members who once opposed the wing and its leader, Björn
Höcke, are beginning to embrace them.
AfD parliamentary group head Alice Weidel has long since come to terms with the Flügel and with Höcke. Flügel
representatives and friends of Höcke, like Götz Kubitschek, are asking how they can turn her into an ally.
Weidel is walking on the path toward extremism that AfD party leaders Jörg Meuthen and Alexander Gauland have already taken. The
Flügel is now established in the AfD mainstream. Former opponents in the AfD, such as Beatrix von Storch, have grown quiet.
Weidel does not respond to criticism of the Flügel. Kubitschek: "She has long known that the party can't shake off Björn
Höcke and his network without incurring damage, and that Höcke plays a necessary instrument in the AfD concert."
Weidel will even give a lecture at the next Flügel summer academy in Schnellroda. Kubitschek: "Her lecture ought to be perceived
as a gesture within the party. They have more in common than what separates them."
Weidel: "As parliamentary group leader, I am rightly being asked to respect a certain principle of neutrality."
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution has been monitoring the Flügel since the beginning of the year. The office says
its Identitarian movement violates the constitution. Identitarians claim to offer a more modern version of right-wing extremism, although the AfD
has formally distanced itself from them.
The Flügel has become more professional and organized. Its members no longer aim to lead the AfD and prefer to stay in the
background. Kubitschek: "In the long run, it must be possible to bring the AfD into a form in which it can conduct negotiations and make policy."
British Nervous Breakdown
I believe Britain embarked on its journey toward national nervous breakdown in the decade from 2000 to 2009.
The magnitude of the change was not understood at the time. The sudden growth of the internet, the unleashing of social media, and the
accompanying change in our consciousness all had negative effects as well as positive ones.
The first camera phones seemed to be gimmicks. No one predicted the rise of image-sharing sites. And handheld personal computing seemed
benign. Now we live in our own personal techno-bunkers. Social media exposed deep rifts in society as a new ideal world, more seductive and
unrealistic than anything in previous advertising and marketing, made our real lives seem meaner and poorer.
In that decade, our understanding of mental health was growing. A seismic shift was taking place in the way we understood the mind and
its workings. Mental health became part of the mainstream conversation. Old issues that had been suppressed or denied were acknowledged. British
mental health professionals reported a big growth in psychic problems.
All this changed the psychic substrate in Britain. We cannot judge it yet, but a mass change in consciousness is taking place. People
are living online lives unlike any others in human history.
All this began in the first decade of the 21st century.
Fast Radio Bursts
FRBs are milliseconds-long bursts of powerful radio waves that come from the depths of space. Many source mechanisms have been proposed but none
fits perfectly. Most FRBs appear only once, but three appear to repeat, so these cannot come from one-off events like neutron star collisions
or supernovas. Vikram Ravi calculates that the rest probably don't either and most are repeaters.
AR Some ask: Intelligent radio transmissions?
50 years ago today: Apollo 11 lifts off, bound for the Moon
AR Thanks to Wernher von Braun for the Saturn V booster
2019 July 16
Farming on Mars
The harsh environment on Mars makes growing food there a daunting prospect, but we can crack the problem by laying sheets of material over the surface
to prepare it for farming. Aerogel sheets can create a greenhouse effect by trapping solar energy to warm the ground and melt enough buried ice to
keep plants alive. Future spacefarers can create fertile oases beneath the sheets.
Enabling Martian habitability with silica aerogel via the solid-state greenhouse effect
Robin Wordsworth et al.
Large areas of the surface of Mars could be made habitable to photosynthetic life by creating a greenhouse effect. Under Martian environmental conditions,
a 2−3 cm thick layer of silica aerogel will transmit sufficient visible light for photosynthesis, block hazardous UV radiation, and raise
temperatures underneath it permanently to above the melting point of water.
2019 July 15
The New York Times
President Donald Trump woke up on Sunday morning, gazed out at the nation he leads, saw the dry kindling of race relations and decided to throw a match
on it. He fired off a Twitter rant goading Democratic congresswomen of color to "go back" to the country they came from, even though most of them
were actually born in the United States. He plays with fire.
Boris Johnson wants to make resetting relations with President Trump one of his first acts in Downing Street by travelling to the United States to
negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal. International trade secretary Liam Fox says undertaking any agreement before the UK leaves the EU would be in
breach of international law.
2019 July 14
Book of Trump
President Donald Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson, the Israeli‑American wife of GOP mega donor Sheldon Adelson,
in November 2018. She now says: "Would it be too much to pray for a day when the Bible gets a Book of Trump, much like it has a Book of Esther
celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from ancient Persia?"
UK Leak Scandal
The Sunday Times
The chairman of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party was last night embroiled in the Darroch leak scandal as it emerged that he is in a relationship
with the writer whose story brought down the UK ambassador to Washington.
Vassal State UK
The idea that a Boris Johnson premiership will restore US-UK relations to good health is facile.
Theresa May went out of her way to appease Trump. He repaid her by mocking her over Brexit.
Trump is probably not a fascist. But his America First chauvinism makes him an unsuitable partner.
Britain risks becoming a vassal state of Trump America. The Darroch affair is a timely warning.
Ship of Fools
Brexit backers voted not so much on the EU or on austerity as in protest at migration.
As a result of Brexit, non-EU immigrants are outnumbering Europeans still further than before the vote. As this reality dawns on a poorer
country faced with a growing burden on public services, extremists will find ways to exploit the backlash.
The conservative mind has ceased to function. That the Times has endorsed Boris Johnson as national leader is a measure of its desperation.
When a pop-up political party led by a friend and admirer of Donald Trump and apologist for Putin triumphs in elections, we should be worried.
As they drone on about the sacred will of the people, the drivers of our Brexit suicide lorries represent a privileged elite who stand to
suffer least if national decline follows. They know that practical issues drove people to vote Leave, yet they invest Brexit voters with higher motives.
The average English voter yearns to stop the music and go back to where we were, when we enjoyed minimal global competition and splendid
isolation, and could smile down on the world from our island fastness. Johnson's appeal relies on patriotic nostalgia and the illusion of effortless
ascendancy. His supporters want to leave our chaotic globalised world and be somewhere else.
The ship of English fools, captained by an egomaniacal amateur, is about to sail.
We had two ways to measure the expansion of the universe, described by the Hubble constant.
The two methods always returned clashing results. Now, a third independent method has confirmed the problem. If both old ways are
correct, we may need to revise our cosmology.
One way we measure the Hubble constant is by using the CMB. This tells us how fast the universe was expanding at 12 Ts ABB. We can then
calculate how fast it ought to be expanding now.
The other main way is using a distance ladder. We measure the distance to Cepheid variables, link those distances to nearby supernovas,
and use supernovas to link distances with redshifts for galaxies. This method measures an expansion rate more than 9% higher than the CMB method.
The third measurement uses gravitational lensing. As a distant quasar changes in brightness, there is a time delay between when that
change shows up in each image. We can use the time delay to measure the distance to the quasar. With the redshift, this measures the Hubble constant.
The new measurement boosts the distance ladder method, which is based on more complex and less established physics than the CMB measurement,
with a confidence level of 5 sigma.
Maybe both measurements of cosmic expansion are correct. Does the Hubble constant vary?
AR I see no particular reason why the Hubble constant should be constant.
boris-noris adv. going on
blindly, without thought
to risk or decency
A Glossary of the
"Idiots! Running, boris-noris
into the ditch, without a
thought of the morrow."
Ann Beale, 1878
AR Thanks to Green MEP
Molly Scott Cato
F-35A: $90 million a pop
Jedi War Cloud
The Pentagon is set to award a
$10 billion "war cloud" contract
to a US technology company.
Amazon and Microsoft are
competing for the chance to
build the Joint Enterprise
(JEDI) AI system.
2019 July 13
Lost the Plot and Adrift
"The greatest alliance the world has ever known" was how Donald Trump described the US-UK relationship during his state visit to Britain. Now Trump
has denounced the British ambassador to Washington as a "pompous fool" and forced him out.
Boris Johnson recently endorsed Trump's paean to the historic significance of the US-UK alliance. He feels he must appease the US
administration. For hard Brexiteers, the great benefit of leaving the EU is that it will free Britain to make new trade deals, with a US deal
as the biggest prize of all.
Trump has dangled the prospect of a "phenomenal" new trade deal with America, but politics will hinder it. US demands will include
opening up the UK food and healthcare markets. The UK can reduce tariffs, but a hard border in Ireland will antagonise the Irish-American lobby
Britain seems to have lost the plot. For almost 50 years, British foreign policy has been based on the twin pillars of a special
relationship with the US and membership of the EU. Without those pillars securely in place, Britain is adrift.
Looking Out for a Hero
No deal is a phrase vague enough to seem democratic, even though most people are against it, and to seem patriotic even though it is against the best
traditions and interests of the UK. The centre ground is not simply a midpoint between extremes but a reality. It can be held in a way populism cannot.
Britain cannot be saved by a superhero.
As a country, we stand at the cusp of a new beginning, one where we take back control of our destiny after more than 40 years. Boris Johnson has made it
crystal clear that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal. At this critical moment in our nation's history, we need his
This confidence in our own country will turn the tide in any future negotiations. We want a fair deal that respects free trade but does
not embrace a political project we did not sign up to. Johnson and a new team, who believe in Brexit, will have a far better chance of securing such
The paralysis must end if we are to restore our reputation and standing in the world, and self-belief back home. We found the right
leaders in 1940 and 1979 in Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher; now it's time for the next one.
AR Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax (Harrow, Sandhurst, Coldstream Guards) is the
Conservative MP for South Dorset, the constituency directly southwest of Poole.
2019 July 12
Jessica T. Mathews
American defense spending crowds out funds for everything else.
Expressed as a percentage of GDP, defense spending is roughly 3−4%. But the valid measure of affordability is its share of the
federal discretionary budget. Defense spending now accounts for almost 60% of this budget.
Understanding the recent ups and downs of the defense budget is complicated by the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, meant
to cover the costs of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only way to see the actual cost of maintaining and using the military is to
consider the OCO and the Pentagon base budget together.
Under the Trump administration, the budget soared to $700 billion in fiscal year 2018 and $716 billion this year, with a proposed leap
to $750 billion for FY 2020, for a total increase of more than $100 billion since Trump took office.
The United States spends more on defense than the next eight largest spenders combined — China, Saudi Arabia, India, France,
Russia, Britain, Germany, and Japan.
Americans are allocating too much to defense.
AR Trump America is on course to take on the rest of the world in a military showdown. This looks likely to fail. Britain
can either go down with America or win with the rest of the world.
Donald Trump's firing of Sir Kim has already warped Boris Johnson's plans.
Johnson has ceded control over UK decision-making to Trump. He will have to embrace the no-deal Brexit he aims to avoid so that Trump
can dictate a US-UK trade deal.
Trump's goal is to bring about a transactional world in which each country fends for itself. That suits his idea of the natural order
of things when America First is on top.
Trump has launched a commission on "unalienable rights" and Mike Pompeo says rights should be based on "natural law" — code for
biblical morality and dog eat dog.
AR Does Johnson want to play poodle to Trump?
2019 July 11
American Ambassador Affair
The resignation of Sir Kim Darroch followed the failure of Boris Johnson to say he supported him staying in post. Darroch naturally concluded he had no
future as ambassador. It is pretty clear that the political purpose of the leak was to get Darroch replaced by a true Brexiteer.
Boris Brexit Bluster
Boris Johnson claims the EU will swerve at the last minute to avoid a no-deal Brexit and offer him better withdrawal terms.
Former UK ambassador to the EU Sir Mark Ivan Rogers says a no-deal Brexit is likely to lead to "disruption on a scale and of a length
that no one has experienced in the developed world in the last couple of generations .. We are dealing with a political generation which has no
serious experience of bad times and is frankly cavalier about precipitating events they cannot then control but feel they might exploit."
A recent poll showed 54% of Conservative members would be willing to see the Conservative party destroyed as the price for delivering
Brexit and 63% would accept Scotland leaving the UK as the price, whatever the impact on the British economy. Most members think the warnings of
chaos are overdone and expect Brexit to be delivered on time.
Johnson: "I think people are yearning for this great incubus to be pitchforked off the back of British politics."
Colony Claim Confused
Boris Johnson has spoken of Britain's supposed "colony status" in the EU and yet also believes that it would be good if Britain were still "in charge"
of Africa. Some Brexiteers stress the need to teach the British empire, but their preference is for mythology over history. History shows there is
nothing especially British about values such as tolerance, freedom, human rights, or democracy.
Dame Defends Deal
Ursula von der Leyen
I hope the UK will remain in the EU, but I do not intend to renegotiate the withdrawal deal. I think the Irish backstop is of utmost importance. We
know how crucial a nonexistent border is for the Irish. Having the backstop in the Brexit deal is precious, important, and has to be defended.
Exit Execution Ends
Since June 2016, Britain has been trying to process a one-word instruction, leave, that cannot be executed by the political operating system. Brexit
is an inexecutable file. Boris Johnson will soon be staring at the blue screen of death. British politics is heading for a hard reboot.
2019 July 10
The Mathematical Universe
Einstein's search for unified theory of electromagnetism and gravitation using only his imagination and mathematics left him increasingly out of step with
younger colleagues. They were busy exploring the new vistas of particle and nuclear physics opened up by experiments that eventually led to the Standard
There were precedents for Einstein's attempt. Isaac Newton had demonstrated that the force that pulls an apple to the ground also keeps the
planets in their orbits. And James Clerk Maxwell unified electricity and magnetism — and light — in electromagnetism.
Einstein's mathematical approach has been embraced by theoretical physicists in the pursuit of a theory of everything. Superstring theory
interprets particles as little oscillating bits of string. The different levels of vibration of these strings in 10 dimensions correspond to the
different particles. Theorists found five different string theories, but Ed Witten unified all five in M-theory.
In the past, experiments played a vital role in developing theory and vice versa. Wherever data can be coaxed out of nature, it suffices to
corroborate or refute a theory and serves as the sole arbiter of validity. But where experimental evidence is spare or absent, the interplay with
mathematics has led to advances in physics.
Quantum Trajectory Theory
Early quantum mechanics was a probabilistic theory, telling us only what we will observe on average if we collect records for many events or particles.
The theory seemed to work only for ensembles of many particles. For a large ensemble, we can use statistics to check the predictions.
Quantum trajectory theory (QTT) is compatible with the standard formalism of quantum mechanics but gives a more detailed view of quantum
behavior. The standard description is recovered over long timescales after the average of many events is computed.
QTT deals precisely with single quantum events as they are happening. By applying QTT to an experiment on a quantum circuit, researchers
recently captured a switch between two quantum energy states as it unfolded over time. They caught a jump in midflight and reversed it.
A quantum measurement influences the system being observed. The act of observation injects a kind of random noise into the system. The
uncertainty in a measurement reflects the randomizing effect of observation.
Quantum back-action can be thought of as an imperfect alignment between the system and the measuring apparatus. Normally, an observation
of a quantum system overlooks a lot of potentially available information. But if almost everything is measured and known about the system, you can
build feedback into the measurement apparatus to make continual adjustments to compensate for the back-action.
For this to work, the measurement apparatus has to collect data faster than the rate at which the system undergoes significant change,
and it has to do so with nearly perfect efficiency. Essentially all the information leaving the system and being absorbed by the environment must be
measured and recorded.
A quantum trajectory is a path taken through the abstract space of possible states of the system. QTT describes how observations of the
way the system has behaved so far affect that path, then predicts what it will do in the future.
⦿ Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects
Museum Island, Berlin
Ode to Joy
Brexit MEP Anne Widdecombe
trials hard Brexit fashion
Ursula Albrecht, 1976
Ursula von der Leyen
likes to ride horses
2019 July 9
Brexit and Trump
HM civil service has long been a respected part of the UK system of government. Civil servants are politically impartial and speak truth to power.
But the excitement of Brexit has led to attacks on Whitehall's top mandarins.
The latest attack is the leak of confidential dispatches written by UK ambassador to the US Sir Kim Darroch. Brexiteers are calling
him "pro-European" and "anti-Trump" in an attempt to discredit him.
AR Another shameful sign that Brexit Britain is sinking fast.
Britain and Brussels
Boris Johnson, 2013
If we left the EU, we would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by Brussels, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate
management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification, and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.
Why are we still, person for person, so much less productive than the Germans? That is now a question more than a century old, and
the answer is nothing to do with the EU. In or out of the EU, we must have a clear vision of how we are going to be competitive in a global
AR The best thing I can recall Boris ever having said.
2019 July 8
UK Crisis Forecast
The UK is heading for a political crisis. Boris Johnson intends to take the UK out of the EU by Halloween, do or die. A majority of MPs are opposed to a
The EU will not renegotiate the deal. Johnson prefers to leave without a deal than revoke Article 50. He will not request a new extension.
Conservatives will announce their new leader on July 23. May will resign on July 24. MPs will begin their summer recess on July 25.
Case 1. Labour seeks to stop a no-deal Brexit before the recess begins. Other parties and Tory rebels support the vote. The Queen is dragged
in if the Commons does this before she invites Johnson to form a government. An immediate election ensues.
Case 2. Parliament returns in September and Johnson goes for no deal. Parliament will not support him. Johnson will not survive.
Case 3. Johnson secures an extension. But he cannot tell moderates he will secure a deal and tell the ERG he will go for no deal. The
hardliners will bring him down if he betrays them. Johnson will lose a confidence vote and his government will fall.
Case 4. Johnson fails to get an extension. If parliament votes to revoke Article 50, Johnson will not last the rest of the week.
Case 5. Johnson prorogues parliament. The Queen is dragged in. An immediate election ensues.
A crisis will trigger either an election or a referendum or both.
An Alternative Parliament
If Boris Johnson presses ahead with a no-deal Brexit by seeking to prorogue the Commons, an alternative parliament could defy him by continuing to sit
elsewhere. I would work with colleagues to organize another parliament across the road. That is what happened in 2002 when Tony Blair tried not to
have a vote on the Iraq war. MPs were invited to Church House, and Blair backed down.
When Johnson was foreign secretary and I was a junior foreign minister, I remember I had been pushing our ambassadors to be much more
brutally honest about failure and the weakness of British positions in their countries and he said: "Rory, I used to captain rugby teams and that
is not how you do it. You say to them: It is great, we can do this .. You have got to build their morale and make them feel pumped up and feeling
it's going to be great. The more they say it is going to be great, the greater it is going to be."
International trade negotiations are not like a rugby match.
Seven years ago, in a manifesto titled Britannia Unchained, five Conservative MPs said Brits need to "stop indulging in irrelevant debates
about sharing the pie" and instead to double down on austerity and keep the faith in free markets.
Lots of trailblazing, libertarian tech people see big tech companies as malignant concentrations of power. The internet's big players
have been through their unregulated, disruptive phase. We are now in a period of damaging effects on society.
The EU has been in the forefront of conversations about what to do about the internet giants. Yet some Tories scoff at any claim that
all this activity is about protecting consumers and innovators, insisting instead on defending the free market.
Come the autumn, Britain may well face penury. We will be told to unchain the tech, finance, and food industries' offshore playground.
Such are the uplands of freedom offered by a party that seems to have lost its moral bearings.
2019 July 7
Iran Breaks Out
Iran breaks the terms of its nuclear deal again by announcing plans to enrich uranium beyond the levels allowed under the 2015 agreement.
Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi says Iran will produce uranium at 5% enrichment. He says Iran has called time on diplomacy.
Iran revealed its first breach of the deal last week, announcing that it was stockpiling low-enriched uranium beyond the 300 kg limit allowed.
Sanctions are damaging the Iranian economy. Oil exports are about 300,000 barrels per day, compared with 2.5 million barrels in April 2018.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's adviser on international affairs Ali Akbar Velayati says officials are unanimous on breaking out.
The US military is building up its forces in the region.
Trump Presidency "Dysfunctional"
Mail on Sunday
UK ambassador to the US Sir Kim Darroch used secret cables and briefing notes to say the White House is "uniquely dysfunctional" and that the Trump presidency
could "crash and burn": "We don't really believe this Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable;
less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept."
A letter to UK national security adviser Sir Mark Sedwill sent on June 22, 2017, copied to senior figures in government, ran to six pages
of unflattering observations about the President's character and political record:
"I don't think this Administration will ever look competent .. President Trump radiates insecurity. [We could] be at the beginning of
a downward spiral, rather than just a rollercoaster: something could emerge that leads to disgrace and downfall."
Trump Trials Fascism
We are in a phase of trial runs for fascism.
Donald Trump understands of test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured
by planting outrageous stories you can confirm or deny later. He recreated himself in reality TV where storylines are adjusted to max the ratings.
Fascism arises slowly in a democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs
to get people used to something they may initially recoil from, and then refine and calibrate.
Fascism starts with building up tribal identities and rigging elections. Fascists typically come to power with minority support and then use
control and intimidation to consolidate that power. Most people can hate you as long as your minority is fanatically committed. A propaganda machine
creates an alternate universe for the fans.
The next step is to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to acts of cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be
given the taste for savagery. Fascists do this by building up the sense of threat from despised outsiders, who can then be dehumanized.
This next step is being test-marketed now. Trump is seeing how his fans feel about crying babies in cages. His claim that immigrants "infest"
the US is a test of whether his fans are ready to hear "vermin" as they see images of toddlers dragged from their parents.
Fox News mouthpieces outdid themselves in barbaric crassness, even describing crying children as actors. Fox sees the manipulative behavior
of strangers coming to infest us. Most Republicans are in favor of this brutality.
The blooding process has begun.
2019 July 6
The core idea of democracy is simple: As members of a community, we should have an equal say in how we conduct our life together. All adults are free
to join in, and no one is free to enjoy the unchecked power that leads to arrogance and abuse.
History demonstrates that genuine democracy is difficult to achieve, and once achieved, fragile. In totalitarian regimes, whenever
power is used and displayed, the effect is profoundly erotic. The Triumph of the Will shows people experiencing a sort of collective
Genuine democracy is not erotic. It aspires only to a certain measure of human dignity. Ancient Athenian democracy devised two
institutions to contain its flaws:
— Sortition: They appointed public officials by lot. Elections allow some people to assert themselves, arrogantly and unjustly,
— Ostracization: When a citizen was becoming too popular, they voted him out of the city for ten years, to prevent his unchecked
Democracy is hard to find in the human world. Most of the time we see it as a remote ideal rather than a fact. We may never get it,
but we cannot afford to stop dreaming of it.
The Road to Brussels
Ursula von der Leyen took a seat on the podium in the parliamentary group chamber of the European People's Party (EPP) in Strasbourg. She turned to
console Manfred Weber, the man on her left, in German. She then switched to French and spoke about her childhood in Brussels and her father.
Switching to English, she discussed her years in California.
Many parliamentarians are not amused by her sudden nomination. The CDU government minister was handpicked by European leaders in a
confidential meeting. The EU lead candidate system was left by the wayside.
French president Emmanuel Macron had mentioned Ursula von der Leyen for a top EU job on several occasions. Shortly before Macron's
election, she had said: "Macron is a convinced, engaged champion of the European idea who will strengthen the European family and lead it into the
Macron had seen her work as defense minister. Since 2017, she has been driving the largest German-French defense project yet, a new
European fighter jet. Despite plenty of resistance, she pushed on. She last ran into Macron at the International Paris Air Show in Le Bourget,
where a signing ceremony for the project was held.
At midday on the Monday of the EU summit, her name was little more than a test balloon from Macron. By Tuesday morning, Germany and
France had settled on nominating her for Commission president and Christine Lagarde for ECB president. Merkel and Macron met with Donald Tusk and
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez. They agreed on the new personnel package.
Dr von der Leyen's political future looks rosy once again. Her defense ministry has been in the headlines for months due to massive
cost overruns, a series of mechanical difficulties with government aircraft, and a parliamentary committee investigation into potential nepotism
and malfeasance among her close advisers. She has improved the German military, expanding its cyber capabilities, making it more attractive to
women, modernizing its processes, and increasing its budget, but those successes have not improved her image as defense minister.
Dr von der Leyen is well qualified for the position of European Commission president. She will enter the confirmation process with
the support of European leaders. Yet she lacks the full support of her own government. German Social Democrats says they will reject her candidacy,
German conservatives are concerned that the parliamentary vote will be secret, and the Greens say she must offer them a Commission post.
2019 July 5
European Commission Presidency
European Council President Donald Tusk has asked the European Parliament to approve the appointment of Ursula von der Leyen as the next president of
the European Commission.
Mrs von der Leyen is the daughter of Ernst Albrecht, a senior German politician who worked in the European Commission from 1958.
When she was an undergraduate at Göttingen, the police advised her father, then prime minister of Lower Saxony, to move her away,
as some students at the university were linked with the Baader-Meinhof gang and the RAF. She spent the year 1978/79 at the LSE, where she called
herself Rose Ladson — the name of her American great-grandmother — to avoid detection.
On London: "For me, coming from the rather monotonous, white Germany .. London was the epitome of modernity: freedom, the joy of life,
trying everything. This gave me an inner freedom that I have kept until today."
Later, she switched to medicine, was awarded a doctorate in Hanover, and practiced as a gynecologist. She then studied and worked for
four years in medical administration in Stanford University, California, before returning to enter German politics.
As a minister in Angela Merkel's government, Ursula is an enthusiast for European integration. In 2011, she called for a United States
Since 2013, she has served as the federal German defense minister. Last December, she was called before a parliamentary committee to
answer charges over the handling of defense contracts. The Bundestag is holding hearings into whether her office circumvented public procurement
rules in granting contracts to private firms.
She is opposed to Brexit, describing the prospect as a "burst bubble of hollow promises .. inflated by populists" and a loss for
On Brexit: "I know .. the British are always self-reliant. The Germans tend toward over-enthusiasm in European affairs, the French to
emotion .. The British ground all this with their skepticism, their understatement and their great pragmatism. When the British leave the EU, the
high-blown will dominate, and the union could lose its grip, so we need the British."
Ursula is descended from a wealthy merchant family in Bremen. Her husband Heiko von der Leyen is a medical professor and CEO of a
medical engineering firm. They are Lutheran Christians and have seven children.
A few milestones
1958 Born and raised Ursula Albrecht in Brussels
1976 Undergraduate in Göttingen
1978 Studied economics in London for a year
1980 Studied medicine in Hanover
1986 Married Heiko von der Leyen (now 7 children)
1991 Awarded doctorate in medicine/gynecology
1992 Worked in Stanford, California
2001 CDU member of regional assembly in Hanover
2003 Minister in Lower Saxony government
2005 Minister in German federal government
2013 Federal minister of defense (still in office)
2019 President of the European Commission (?)
⦿ Erin Schaff / The New York Times
US Navy Blue Angels roar over Lincoln Memorial and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" blares to end President Trump's speech.
AR God rained on Trump's Independence Day parade.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
⦿ Chris Saville
2019 July 4
UK 2019: Down
Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt admits that a no-deal Brexit could cause almost as much economic damage as the 2008 financial crisis,
which led to a severe recession and put 2.7 million people out of work.
Credit rating agency Moody's: "We believe that, without an agreement, the UK economy would likely enter a recession. The British pound,
which has already weakened since the Brexit vote, would come under renewed pressure."
UK government estimate: A no-deal Brexit reduces GDP by between 6.3% and 10.7% over 15 years.
UK 2020: Out
Later this month, will the new prime minister stand on the Downing Street doorstep and announce an embarrassing compromise? Unless he does, and
negotiates an extension beyond 31 October, no deal is not an option. It is automatic.
The UK will be in trouble. The Conservative party will sink modern Britain in order to save its own skin from the Brexit party.
No one voted for this in 2016. It would surely be better to remain in the EU than to have to rejoin.
AR The End of Days scenario is nigh.
2019 July 3
Obesity tops smoking as cause of cancer
Being overweight now causes more cases of four common cancers than cigarettes. A Cancer Research UK study reveals that excess weight is a bigger cause
of bowel, kidney, ovarian, and liver cancer than tobacco. About 15 million adults in Britain (29%) are obese and 6 million (14%) are smokers.
Boris Johnson pledges to bin sin taxes
Boris Johnson undermined one of his cabinet supporters last night by pledging to drop an obesity policy being championed by health secretary Matt Hancock.
The Conservative leadership contender announced he would order a review into the sugar tax and veto proposals to extend it to milkshakes.
AR Looks like a rather dire collision of headlines.
2019 July 2
Europe: Next Leaders
European leaders choose German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission,
Belgian prime minister Charles Michel to replace Donald Tusk as president of the European Council, and IMF head Christine Lagarde to take
over from Mario Draghi as head of the European Central Bank.
Laconia Motorcycle Week
American bikers hail their commander-in-chief. Images of Trump on a motorcycle, in a leather jacket, rifle in hand, under a halo of words: Finally
someone with balls — Talk shit, spit blood — Trump 2020 the wall is coming
For a week every June, Weirs beach, Hew Hampshire, is transformed into biker boulevard, hog heaven. The language is foul. The wardrobe
is leather. Engines, music loud. Booze flowing. Tents sell chaps and vests with gun pockets. Daily wet T-shirt contests.
Trump: "I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but
they don't play it tough until they get to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."
2019 July 1
The Bimby Manifesto
The Sunday Times
When the Prince of Wales unveiled Poundbury in Dorset, the critics called it fake and heartless, a feudal Disneyland, and a Thomas Hardy theme park
for slow learners. But it succeeded: Its 1,700 homes command a 29% premium over similar ones nearby.
Now the Prince's Foundation has launched Housing Britain: A Call to Action. This manifesto says that if planners, builders,
landowners, and government follow its template, "nimby" will be replaced by "bimby" (beauty in my backyard).
Charles: "I have long believed that for communities to prosper, they require a built environment that provides good-quality homes that
are planned as walkable, mixed-use and mixed-income neighbourhoods, with integrated affordable housing that is as well designed as the rest.
They also need a range of local services accessible by public transport, green routes and natural places that are enjoyable and safe for cycling,
and, above all, a local identity that fosters pride and a sense of belonging, and has character and beauty."
The foundation's newest planned town, Nansledan in Cornwall, is taking shape, with 4,000 homes planned and 230 built so far.
□ Consign the monocultural housing estate to the past.
□ Insist on beauty at the beginning of planning and impose quality controls on large builders.
□ Offer low rates and rents to start-ups.
□ End car-centric design. Make pavements at least 2 m wide, with lower kerbs for pedestrians.
□ Slow traffic by placing a public space or change in building line every 60−80 m.
□ No more towers: bring back mansion blocks and mid-rise developments.
□ Incentivise landowners to design and build a better longer-term legacy.
□ Build more flats and maisonettes above small employers to encourage social vibrancy.
□ Empower smaller developers and different housing investors to create diverse communities.
□ Place affordable housing seamlessly among other types and keep it affordable in perpetuity.
□ Find ways to save and repurpose historic buildings.
□ Make use of fast-track factory fabrication.
□ Create green spaces and access to nature to boost physical and mental health.
□ Include bee bricks, bird boxes, and edible planting.
AR Seems good to me.
⦿ Bournemouth Daily Echo
Bournemouth beach, June 29
Deadly heat in France
2019 June 30
Trump Invites Kim to White House
President Donald Trump and NK leader Kim Jong Un met at the Korean DMZ. They shook hands and walked over the line that has split Korea since 1953.
Their relationship appeared to be back on track after the failed summit in Hanoi. They greeted each other warmly and looked happy. Trump suggested
they could follow the DMZ meeting with a visit by Kim to the White House.
Trump Disses Japan
Gary J. Bass
President Trump: "If Japan is attacked, we will fight World War III. But if we're attacked, Japan doesn't have to help us at all. They can watch it on a
In 1945, Japan was placed under a US occupation overseen by General Douglas MacArthur. When the occupation ended in 1952, Japan had turned
away from militarism to embrace ideals of pacifism and democracy.
A 1951 security treaty let the United States post US forces in and around Japan. In 1960, the United States pledged to defend Japan if it
was attacked. For much of the Cold War, democratic Japan was the core of American alliances against Communism in Asia.
Japan responded when the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001. Prime minister Koizumi Junichiro passed a law to support the
US campaign in Afghanistan. He also supported the US Invasion of Iraq in 2003 and provided humanitarian support in postwar Iraq.
Prime minister Abe Shinzo has sought to cultivate a special relationship with Trump. In response, Trump shrugged off Japanese fears
The Delusion of Sovereign Control
The delusion running riot in Britain today is that the UK can improve everything by gaining sovereign control of its laws and government.
In fact, in our deeply interdependent world, the whole idea embodied in such ringing metaphors as taking control, making our own laws,
and getting our country back is fundamentally flawed.
Laws and institutions that have no connection with EU membership are expanding across the planet daily. They are part of the rules-based
order that now stands between all of us and international anarchy. Almost every law passed in an open nation has to take constant account of both
other countries' laws and of higher agreed legal frameworks. A binding web of behavior shapes almost every aspect of ordered daily life and its
governing laws. Brexit will make little difference.
The world of pure sovereign control has gone forever. To every major issue of this century, national governments acting alone have no
answer. All progress has to be by agreement and cooperation with other parties and other nations.
The new British prime minister will have to explain that his powers are far more limited than the media or the public clamor begin to
comprehend. He will have to reveal that unless the UK aims to become a hermit kingdom, life will continue to be governed by a network of
international rules and procedures not very different from what went before.
The paradox is that the demand for control only makes sense in the web of rules and controls that hold the modern world together.
The Brexit Elixir
The UK is run by an old-boy network. The contest for the Conservative party leadership pits a former president of the Oxford Union against a former
president of the Oxford University Conservative Association. Of the 54 prime ministers since 1721, 27 were educated at Oxford.
Boris Johnson is believed by some to be the British Donald Trump. But they have little in common. Trump joined Twitter in 2009 and
has 61.5 million followers. Johnson joined in 2015 and has 614,000 or so followers. Trump notoriously communicates at the level of a 10-year-old.
Johnson speaks the archaic jolly-good-egg English of P.G. Wodehouse. Boris is no Trump.
The next UK leader will be chosen by the 160,000 members of the Conservative party. The Tory party is 97% white, 86% middle class
(ABC1), 71% male, 54% from southern England, and 44% over 65. Two thirds of them favour a no-deal Brexit.
The young Boris Johnson used to cover every step in the direction of Bundesrepublik Europa with febrile excitement. Now he seeks to
become prime minister by promising his aging party members the magical Brexit elixir.
Meanwhile, a new generation of right-wing populists in Europe has worked out that it's better to remain in the EU and constantly
to bitch about it than to exit.
Boris Johnson appeals to the Tory faithful with his hardline message on Brexit. In Bournemouth and Exeter, he went for the pantomime approach, telling
his audience that there are "three things" the next leader needs to get done: "And the first is what? What?" The members chanted in loud response:
"Brexit!" Johnson roared back: "Yes! Get Brexit done!"
Jeremy Hunt has to try to be funny. His natural default setting is managerial, sober, and reassuring. The Hunt campaign message:
"These are serious times and we need a serious person in No 10."
2019 June 29
Our ideas for a quantum theory of gravity all say space is derived from something deeper.
Black holes are the best test case for quantum gravity. General relativity says matter falling into a black hole approaches a central
singularity. We hope quantum theory can say more.
A black hole is bounded by an event horizon, beyond which descent to the singularity is irreversible. But all known laws of fundamental
physics and quantum mechanics are reversible.
Black holes have a nonzero temperature, but this deepens the problem of irreversibility. The black hole destroys information about
infalling particles. If black hole physics is reversible, something must carry information back out.
Any parts of the black hole must be parts of space itself. Perhaps microscopic space is a mosaic of little pieces of space, so that if
you zoomed in to the Planck scale, you would see something like a chessboard. But the grid lines of a chessboard space would privilege some
directions over others, creating asymmetries that contradict special relativity.
By measuring the thermal behavior of black holes, you can count its parts, at least in principle. Dump in energy and see how fast the
temperature rises. In effect, you are measuring the entropy of the system, which represents its microscopic complexity.
If you increase the radius of a ball by a factor of 10, you will have 1000 times as many bits inside it. But if you increase the radius
of a black hole by a factor of 10, the inferred number of bits goes up by only a factor of 100. The black hole may look 3D, but it behaves as if it
A hologram looks like a 3D object, but it turns out to be an image produced by a 2D film. If the holographic principle counts the
microscopic constituents of space and its contents, it must take more to build space than assembling little pieces.
In loop quantum gravity, the building blocks of space are quanta of volume. In string theory, they are fields that live on the surface
traced out by a moving string. In causal set theory, they are events related by a web of cause and effect.
Several approaches to quantum gravity see entanglement as crucial.
AR Heavy stuff, I know, but keep going.
Symmetry in Physics
Symmetries are variations that leave deep relationships invariant. Maxwell's equations reveal a symmetrical relationship between electric and magnetic fields.
The speed at which electromagnetic fields propagate through space matches the measured speed of light.
Einstein found an invariant in the relationship between space and time that made them mutable manifestations of spacetime. He showed there is
no universal here or now: Events can appear simultaneous to one observer but not another, and both perspectives are correct.
Also, the inertia of a body depends on its energy. Resistance to change becomes infinite at the speed of light. Since that resistance is
inertia, a measure of mass, kinetic energy is transformed into mass. Einstein found an invariant relationship between mass and energy.
Unified spacetime is a difficult concept. The speed of light is special because it cannot change. Measurements of distance and time change
instead, leading to effects known as space contraction and time dilation. But no matter how fast two people are traveling with respect to each other,
they always measure the same spacetime interval.
Einstein's special theory of relativity applies only for constant velocities, not accelerating motion. Einstein realized that a person
falling freely feels weightless. In his general theory of relativity, he used symmetry to show that gravity is the curvature of spacetime created by
Certain quantities in nature are always conserved, such as energy, electric charge, and momentum. Emmy Noether proved that each of these
conserved quantities is associated with a symmetry. The symmetries of general relativity ensure that energy is always conserved.
Symmetry has been central in physics ever since. Paul Dirac, trying to make quantum mechanics compatible with the symmetries of special
relativity, wrote a new equation and predicted antimatter. Wolfgang Pauli, trying to balance the energy in radioactive decay, conjectured a new particle,
now known as the neutrino.
Gauge symmetries describe the internal structure of the Standard Model. They imply everything from W and Z bosons to gluons and showed
us where to look for the Higgs boson. But reasoning from symmetry predicts other things, too, such as supersymmetric particles.
Duality is closely related to symmetry. Some dualities reveal that a 3D world without gravity can be dual to a 4D world with gravity. Others
suggest spacetime emerges from quantum entanglements.
AR I find group theory (which defines symmetries) difficult.
Entanglement and Spacetime
There is nothing outside the universe. The history of the universe is constituted of different views of itself. The fundamental ingredient is an event,
something that happens at a single place and time. The event has relations with the rest of the universe, and that set of relations constitutes its
view of the universe.
There are many views, and each one has only partial information about the rest of the universe. Each view is unique. You can measure how
distinct one is from another by defining its variety. The laws of physics work to maximize variety. The principle that nature wants to maximize
variety leads, in an appropriate limit, to quantum mechanics.
In the ensemble interpretation, a wave function describing a single water molecule describes the ensemble of every water molecule in the
universe. The uncertainty of states is the ensemble of all the water molecules in the universe. They form an ensemble because they have similar views.
They all interact with one another, because the probability of interaction is determined by the similarity of views.
In this theory, similarity of views is more fundamental than space. At the smallest scale, there are highly nonlocal interactions, which
appear as entanglement in quantum mechanics. Entanglement is fundamental. The geometry of spacetime emerges from structures of entanglement.
AR My take: If each view has its own spacetime bubble, popping entanglements at the horizon expand the bubble; each quantum
pop breaks a symmetry of possible futures for the view.
Interpret quantum spacetime using quantum computation and the holographic principle, for a discrete de Sitter universe with a Planck time foliation
such that each Planck pixel encodes one qubit, to define a duality between entanglement and spacetime geometry.
AR Hey, we're cracking quantum gravity!
⦿ Kim Kyung-Hoon
I become the new SVP
of Poole Rotary Club
Bozza: Halloween Brexit
"come what may,
do or die."
Temperatures may exceed 40 C
across Europe this week
2019 June 28
Putin: Liberalism Obsolete
Russian president Vladimir Putin says liberalism is spent as an ideological force: "The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with
the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population."
Putin's views chime with those of US president Donald Trump, Viktor Orban of Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, and leaders of the Brexit
insurgency in the UK. Hecalled Angela Merkel's decision to admit a million refugees to Germany a "cardinal mistake" and praised Trump for trying to
stop the flow of migrants and drugs from Mexico.
Putin is regularly accused of covertly supporting populist movements through financial aid and social media, notably in the 2016 US
presidential election, the Brexit referendum, and the recent European Parliament elections. He emphatically denies doing so.
On the US-China trade war and tensions in the Gulf between the US and Iran, Putin says the situation is explosive: "The cold war was a
bad thing .. but there were at least some rules that all participants in international communication more or less adhered to or tried to follow.
Now, it seems that there are no rules at all."
"I think Russia and UK are both interested in fully restoring our relations .. Treason is the gravest crime possible and traitors must
"We have no problem with LGBT people. Let everyone be happy. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture and traditional
family values of millions of people making up the core population."
2019 June 27
The Big Brexit Lie
Three years after the Brexit referendum, the UK is no closer to figuring out how to leave the EU. A Conservative party leadership election to replace
the prime minister is in full swing. The lead candidate, Boris Johnson, is more prophet than politician to his followers.
As is often the case with populists, reality does not square with his false promises and pseudo-patriotism. Brexiteers speak of a "Global
Britain" that will trade freely with the rest of the world, even as they drag the UK down a path strewn with new barriers to trade.
The real global trading power is the EU. As an EU member state, the UK benefits from the 40 trade agreements the EU has in place with more
than 70 countries. Moreover, the EU is finalizing negotiations for a new free-trade agreement with the Mercosur bloc.
A successful conclusion to the EU-Mercosur talks would send a message about the value and importance of open trade. Europe will have
offered still more proof that Brexit is not only unnecessary but also detrimental to UK economic interests.
2019 June 26
America Versus China and Persia
Thomas L. Friedman
President Trump has engaged America in a grand struggle to reshape the modern behavior of two of the world's oldest civilizations — Persia and China
— at the same time.
He has decided to do so without goals, without allies, without a home team, and without a plan:
✗ Breaking the 2015 denuclearization deal with Iran while trying to entice North Korea into a deal.
✗ Sanctioning China on trade while trying to enlist its help to denuclearize North Korea.
✗ Imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on European allies while needing their help to confront China.
China and Iran are two very different problems. America can settle for a transactional deal with Iran, but we need a transformational deal
European Commission President
Die Europawahl hat als Ausgang, die Europäische Volkspartei (EVP) ist mit 182 Abgeordneten deutlich stärkste Fraktion.
Jeder Wähler hatte die Möglichkeit zu wissen, wer in Verantwortung stehen soll, falls die EVP die Wahl gewinnt: nämlich
Manfred Weber als Kommissionspräsident.
Teile des Europäischen Rates wollen die Idee des Spitzenkandidatenprinzips, dass nur ein Kandidat, der vor der Wahl Gesicht
gezeigt hat, Kommissionspräsident werden kann, einfach vom Tisch wischen. Aber die Folgen für die europäische Demokratie
Das Europäische Parlament ist die Volksvertretung von 500 Millionen Europäern. Die Menschen bestimmen über die Wahl,
in welche Richtung Europa gehen soll. Die Aufstellung von Spitzenkandidaten durch die europäischen Parteien gibt den politischen
Richtungen ein Gesicht.
Das Spitzenkandidatenprinzip ist bestimmt nicht perfekt, aber die bisher mit Abstand beste Idee zur Demokratisierung der EU. Eine
europäische Demokratie muss sich entwickeln können. Ich bin nicht bereit, diese demokratischen Errungenschaften jetzt wieder
Am Europäischen Parlament führt kein Weg vorbei. Nur wenn es gelingt, Europa demokratischer zu machen, zu den Menschen
zu bringen, dann wird Europa eine gute Zukunft haben. Scheitert Europas Demokratisierung, dann kann auch die EU ernsthaft bedroht sein.
UK: September 3
The House of Commons can stop the next prime minister pursuing a no-deal Brexit. A small number of Conservatives can vote to bring down that government
in a no-confidence motion.
A majority of MPs must vote that they have no confidence in the government. Then there is a 14-day period during which others might try
to form a government that can command a majority.
After that period, the Queen can proclaim the date for a general election. The last Thursday before October 31 is October 24. The
Commons would be dissolved 25 working days before that date.
So, the latest the vote of no confidence could take place is September 3, which is the first day that MPs return from their summer
2019 June 25
Battle 4 Brexit
Britain is a Remainer nation held hostage by extreme no-dealers. The ruling party is seized by no-deal Brexit mania as its leadership candidates
woo the membership's worst delusions.
Conservative party members have hardened their Brexit position: Two-thirds are for leaving the EU with no deal, ready to sacrifice
the union, the economy, and their own party. Out in the real world, only a quarter of voters want a no-deal Brexit. There has long been
an 8-point lead for remain.
A Mail on Sunday poll found 54% for remain, 46% for leave. For Westminster: Labour 26%, Tories 24%, Brexit 20%,
Lib Dems 18%, and 11% for Greens, SNP, and Plaid Cymru combined. In total, Remainers are well ahead of Leavers.
Yet the UK is in mortal danger of being dragged into a no-deal Brexit. This democratic outrage is sustained by dishonesty about
obeying a long-defunct "will of the people" plus a confession that an election would put Jeremy Corbyn into No 10. A referendum is resisted
because Brexit would lose.
Nigel Farage has proposed a pact with the Tories to deliver a devastating hard Brexit crash-out. The Remain majority would be
crushed. The only salvation is an anti-Brexit alliance.
AR Bonking "Bodger" Bojo broke it, so the party wants him to fix it.
A Tax Cut 2 Far
Institute for Fiscal Studies
Boris Johnson proposes to increase the income tax higher rate threshold from £50,000 to £80,000. The increase would cost about £9 billion
and benefit the 4 million taxpayers with the highest incomes. Most of the gain would go to the top 10%, with the biggest gain to rich
AR The proposal is a bung to party members.
Boris Johnson Unfit 2B Prime Minister
I have known Johnson since the 1980s, when I edited The Daily Telegraph and he was our Brussels correspondent. I have argued for a decade
that he is unfit for national office.
Tory MPs have launched the UK upon an experiment in celebrity government. We can't predict what a Johnson government will do, because its
leader has not yet thought about that.
Admirers say Johnson in office will reveal the wisdom and responsibility that have so far eluded him. This seems unlikely. Dignity still
matters in public office, and Johnson will never have it.
Winston Churchill, for all his wit, was a profoundly serious human being. Far from perceiving anything glorious about standing alone in 1940,
he knew he needed allies and partners.
Johnson will come to regret securing the prize. The experience of the premiership will lay bare his unfitness for it. The Tories, in their
terror, have chosen a charlatan.
AR Max is a distinguished Tory who should be heeded.
50 Shades of Green
The secluded garden was fecund with 50 shades of green, in a sanctuary as wild as their crazy, stupid love. Their heads close together in flaxen conspiracy,
the star-crossed couple sat at a weathered teak table.
Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds shared a timeless moment yesterday. He is the soon-to-be twice-divorced priapic rogue who would be king,
she is the girl he has promised to marry come hell or high office.
Boris and Carrie have had to move out of her south London flat and seek refuge in the Sussex countryside. Now they must reassure supporters
and Conservative voters that all is well on the home front.
Doubters say the snaps from the bucolic lovefest were taken months ago.
AR I shall not republish them.
Bollocks 2 Brexit
Three years since the European referendum, we have a Conservative leadership contest in which both candidates are seeking a mandate for a disastrous Brexit.
The less honest of the pair is the runaway frontrunner to be the next prime minister.
Boris will be a disaster for Britain. His version of Brexit, in which the UK will crash out of Europe no matter what at the end of October,
will be the worst of all worlds. Bollocks to Brexit, and Bollocks to Boris.
AR Jo is 2 bold with her bollocks.
2019 June 24
Conscious: A Brief Guide
Annaka Harris has written a book that sets a new standard for consciousness studies. Its great merit, apart from its being so smoothly readable that
I read it in a single unwearied sitting, is that it is both passionate and authoritative. Harris knows her topic intimately, in scientific detail,
and demonstrates a close and critical understanding of all the main ideas and theories. Her opinions make eminently good sense and raise all the
niggling doubts that have bothered me, too.
Her sympathy with Thomas Nagel's idea that an organism X is conscious if and only if there is something it is like to be X is
conventional but problematic. What this "definition" does is to shift the burden onto the question of being, with a baldly declarative claim that
merely begs the question.
Harris takes her time with David Chalmers' work on the hard problem of consciousness. His argument is almost mathematical in its
clarity, and in its logic recalls the diagonal argument Cantor used to prove the uncountability of the real numbers. It stands as a logical
critique of any scientific theory of consciousness, or indeed as a gloss on the epistemic predicament of any centered subject in any objective
world. As such, it can almost be bracketed out from the scientific enterprise.
Harris is rightly both critical of the work on the neuroscience of consciousness and sympathetic to that work. Her criticism focuses
on the extent to which it engages with consciousness itself, as opposed to cognitive performance and the construction of a functional self from
neural activity. Her sympathy is only human, and neuroscience is where public funding should be devoted to advance consciousness studies.
I share the curiosity and interest Harris has for the idea of panpsychism. The puzzles of quantum physics and those surrounding the
concept of time are really beyond the scope of neuroscience. Yet these questions are where consciousness leads us, which suggests the need for
a major paradigm shift. As I see it, qualia, the quanta of experience, can only survive scrutiny as, say, the "phenomenal vibrancy" of
physically fundamental quanta such as photons, which hints at vast domains of utterly nonhuman phenomenology.
Harris has hit all the right notes and hit no dud ones that I can see. As an introduction to the current state of consciousness
studies, it has no equal.
Tweedledon and Tweedledud
Steve Bannon advised
Boris Johnson on key
Leave speech (2:57)
talks about neuroscience,
consciousness, free will,
UK PM Poll Round 5
Result of afternoon
vote by Tory MPs:
Michael Gove ✗
UK PM Poll Round 4
Result of morning vote
by Conservative MPs:
Sajid Javid ✗
Dawn mission images show
dwarf planet Ceres hosts
young ice cryovolcano
Man Up and Face Me
The next prime minister will be overseeing the UK economy, upon which the jobs of millions of families depend. He will be taking charge of the Brexit
negotiations, perhaps the biggest political challenge we have faced in peacetime.
Scrutiny of the candidates matters. One of the strengths of our system is that we scrutinise our politicians with more intelligent
ferocity than anywhere in the world. Yet Boris is refusing to do TV debates.
The next prime minister will be chosen by just 160,000 Conservative party members. I know they want a fair and open contest, not one
that one side is trying to rig to avoid scrutiny.
I am not interested in debating Boris's private life. But I do want to quiz him on how he can "guarantee" we will leave the EU on
October 31 if parliament votes to stop a no-deal Brexit.
A new prime minister needs the legitimacy of having made his arguments publicly and having them subjected to scrutiny.
Don't be a coward Boris, man up and show the nation you can cope.
2019 June 23
Boris Johnson was struggling to keep his campaign to become prime minister on course on Saturday night as he refused to explain why police had been called
to his home after a loud, late-night row with his partner Carrie Symonds. At the first hustings of the leadership contest in front of party members,
he said people did not "want to hear about that kind of thing".
The police confirmed they were called to the couple's south London flat. Neighbors said they heard slamming and banging. Symonds was heard
telling Johnson to "get off me" and "get out of my flat".
Neighbor Tom Penn: "In the early hours of Friday morning .. I heard what sounded like shouting .. from a neighbor's flat. It was loud enough
and angry enough that I felt frightened and concerned for the welfare of those involved, so I went inside my own home, closed the door, and pressed
record on the voice memos app on my phone. After a loud scream and banging, followed by silence, I ran upstairs, and with my wife agreed we should
check on our neighbors. I knocked three times at their front door, but there was no response .. we agreed that we should call the police."
Another neighbor, Fatimah: "It was really loud, loud enough to make me turn down the TV and see what was going on. I could hear shouting
and screaming from a lady, she sounded really angry."
The sight of Boris Johnson in full flow convinced me years ago, when I worked alongside him in Brussels reporting on the EU for The Daily Telegraph,
that he was temperamentally unsuitable to be entrusted with any position of power.
When I worked as his deputy in Brussels in an office of two, it took a long time to get used to what became known as his "four o'clock rants"
in which he hurled four-letter words at an innocent yucca plant for several minutes at deadline time every day to work himself into a frenzy to write his
creative tracts against the EU.
His attitude to women — endless affairs leaving a string of women behind him — has long been one of entitlement and lack of
respect. He has boasted to other men that he needs plenty of women on the go as he is "bursting with spunk" — descriptions of women as "fillies"
in earlier years sullied his reputation with many women as an unreconstructed sexist.
Johnson's former Commons secretary Melissa Crawshay-Williams: "80% of the time working with him was wonderful. The other 20% was terrible.
Boris would swear a lot when he was frustrated."
Telegraph sub-editor Mark Stanway endured years of late copy that prevented him from getting home on time. Editor Charles Moore eventually
tired of such discourtesy and one week discarded his copy. Stanway: "Boris went completely ape. He phoned me f-ing and c-ing. I said it wasn't my
decision. Boris has a ferocious temper. He is not a cuddly teddy bear."
A Bit of a Dud
Boris Johnson, 2016
Think of Britain. Think of the rest of the EU. Think of the future ..
I can see why people might just think, to hell with it. I want out. I want to take back control ..
I like the sound of restoring democracy. But ..
There are some big questions that the "out" side need to answer:
△ Almost everyone expects there to be some sort of economic shock as a result of a Brexit ..
△ And then there is the worry about Scotland ..
△ And then there is the whole geostrategic anxiety ..
Shouldn't our policy be like our policy on cake — pro having it and pro eating it?
Yes, folks, the deal's a bit of a dud.
Churchill College, Cambridge, December 2013: A hundred or so libertarians gather to hear Steve Bannon talk with members of the Young Britons Foundation
(YBF), an insurgency movement within the Conservative Party.
The YBF emphasized promoting liberty, relaxing gun control, and privatizing the NHS (a 60-year mistake, according to YBF president Daniel
Hannan) and originated as an offshoot of the Young Americas Foundation (YAF).
Bannon had allied with YAF funder Robert Mercer in 2012 to become executive director of the alt-right Breitbart website. Bannon planned
to use military-grade target audience acquisition technology on the US population.
Vladimir Putin set up the Internet Research Agency to deliver social media propaganda against Ukraine. In 2014, the agency hired dozens
of English-speaking graduates to promote Donald Trump and attack the EU.
Bannon's friend Nigel Farage declared that Vladimir Putin was the political leader he most admired. Farage was soon appearing regularly
on the Russian propaganda TV network Russia Today.
Johnson and Farage won the 2016 Leave vote with help from Bannon and Putin.
2019 June 22
March of the Machines
"Artificial intelligence is the future, not only in Russia but for all mankind .. whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become ruler of the
— Vladimir Putin, 2017
Artificial intelligence is evolving at a prodigious rate, with profound implications for society. Thinking machines can make us safer, healthier and
more efficient. They will enable us to work and worry less, love and live more fully, and save money, natural resources, and time. There is very
little that AI will not help with.
To date, the great advances in AI use domain-specific machine learning. Such systems take data from their environment and use it to
make predictions and take action. With ever more computing power, and ever richer rivers of data, the machines are growing cleverer and acquiring
more knowledge, learning from experience, just as humans do.
Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is not far off. Beyond that is the prospect of artificial superintelligence (ASI). With the
advent of the Singularity, humans will no longer be the most intelligent beings on Earth.
AI is only as intelligent as the information fed into it, and data is frequently flawed, incomplete, or biased. Machine logic cannot
always cope with an unpredictable, irrational, idiosyncratic world. It will be difficult to impose a single moral framework on thinking machines.
In military technology, a new arms race is underway. Autonomous killing machines are being developed by military scientists around the
globe. How can killer robots best conduct warfare?
2019 Summer Solstice
Oxford University, Brexit Nursery
Six of the seven men who survived the first round of the Tory leadership contest studied at Oxford. The final two candidates, Boris Johnson and
Jeremy Hunt, were contemporaries there. The UK is thus about to install its 11th Oxonian prime minister since the war.
In the 1980s, Oxford was still a very British university, shot through with dilettantism, sexual harassment, and sherry. Johnson graduated
in 1987, Michael Gove and Hunt in 1988.
Being president of the Oxford Union was the first step to being prime minister, said Michael Heseltine. The debating society was a kind of
teenage House of Commons. Almost all aspiring Tory politicians passed through the Union. Europe rarely came up then.
Johnson went up to Oxford from Eton in 1983 with three aims: to get a First, find a wife, and become Union president. He had run Eton's
debating society, and his father had come to Oxford in 1959 intending to become Union president. Boris just missed his First. His sister Rachel said
it later fell to her to "break the terrible news" to him that their brother Jo had got a First.
As Union president in 1988, Gove wrote: "We are all here, part of an elite. It is our duty to bear that in mind." Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt,
OUCA president in 1987, was calmer: "OUCA remains a moderate association controlled by neither libertarians nor any other faction within
the Conservative party, and exists to represent the views of all Conservative students at Oxford."
In 1988, Margaret Thatcher suddenly turned Eurosceptic. In her Bruges speech, she warned against a European superstate exercising a new
dominance from Brussels. That idea spooked the Oxford Tories. They revered Britain's medieval parliament filled with witty English banter, whereas
Brussels offered ugly modernism and jargon-ridden Globish. In 1990, future OUCA president Dan Hannan founded the Oxford Campaign for an Independent
Oxford's "prime minister's degree" is PPE: politics, philosophy, economics. In 2016, the PPE graduates were almost all Remainers:
David Cameron, Hunt, Rory Stewart, Philip Hammond, Matt Hancock, and so on. By contrast, Johnson read Classics, Gove English Literature,
and Hannan History.
Timothy Garton Ash: "Public schools and the culture around them provide a training in superficial articulacy: essay writing, public
speaking, carrying it off. The Oxford Union reinforces that, even among those who didn't go to public school. Compare and contrast the German
AR When I matriculated in Oxford in 1969, the arts were still held in higher esteem than the sciences. To my shame,
I switched from physics to PPE before moving on to graduate work in mathematical logic. I still hold the politics crowd in some disdain.
2019 June 20
A Diminished Country
Hard Brexit is hard Brexit. I don't see how you can sweeten it. A no-deal Brexit will be chaos.
I hope that when the new prime minister reads all the briefs and gets aware of all details of where we are at in terms of the Brexit
negotiations, he will realise that something has to change in terms of the British position. If not, the only solution on the table is the present
Even with a "normal" Brexit, the UK will be a diminished country. It is unavoidable.
AR Mark Rutte is the prime minister of the Netherlands and wants good relations with the UK.
We Back Boris
The Evening Standard backs Boris Johnson to be the next prime minister:
☆ He has a chance of uniting this divided government. The fact that he already has the support
of half of all Tory MPs is a promising start. That's the realpolitik.
☆ He has the most room for manoeuvre to get the country out of the Brexit mess. Ask yourself
who first came up with the idea of two referendums back in early 2016. He promises to get a
renegotiated withdrawal agreement out of the EU. Perhaps he will. Most likely he will not.
☆ He might just get Britain feeling good about itself again. He knows there's a "serious job of
work to be done" — and his more sober approach to this campaign is a start.
If anyone can give Britain back its mojo, it's BoJo.
The UK is poorly led by a political elite that has great difficulties with the truth. As former UK ambassador to the EU, I am discouraged by just how badly
Brexit has been handled to date, and pessimistic that this is going to get any better any time soon.
I was in Brussels running the preparation process for Theresa May's first European council in October 2016. I was able to feel the severe
frost — and the total internal solidarity — her speech 10 days previously to the party conference had engendered.
Think ahead to the October European council this year. Do we think Boris Johnson will, in his first leader's speech to conference, have set
out a subtle, nuanced, principled, and collaborative approach to sober up the party faithful?
Brexit is the price the Conservative party is paying for the flowering of many of the poisonous political seeds planted under Margaret Thatcher. She
bequeathed a party to John Major that was increasingly anti-European, indifferent to regional policy, and in favour of tax cuts at the expense of
public spending as a matter of dogma.
This process has been brutally accelerated by the party's doctrinal obsession with Brexit. By two to one, a poll this week found that
Tory members would rather Brexit took place even if it meant significant damage to the economy, and even if it meant Scotland and Northern Ireland
leaving the UK. A large majority of Tories even think Brexit is more important than the survival of their party. Half of them would be happy for
Nigel Farage to be their new leader.
The Tory party used to rest on a platform of realism. But there is zero realism in a debate about Brexit between leadership candidates
who have no idea how they are going to get a no-deal Brexit, which most voters do not want, through a parliament that does not want it either.
The Tory party is now based on faith, not open to ideas. This has happened when civil society in Britain has made the opposite journey
toward openness to ideas and away from dogma. For that reason, the Conservative party may now be beyond conserving.
Google has a quantum processor that may be able to generate pure randomness. In the quantum world, systems in a superposition of states, when measured, pop
into one state. We can calculate probabilities for the outcome, but the result is random.
One way to pull randomness out of a quantum computer (QC) uses a sampling task. Imagine a box filled with tiles, each labeled with a few
bits. Multiple tiles can have the same label. A sampling task is an algorithm that in effect reaches into a box of tiles and randomly extracts one of
More formally, given a probability distribution for the possible n-bit strings, the algorithm randomly outputs an n-bit
output string. For a classical computer (CC), the task becomes exponentially harder for larger n. But a QC can do better.
Starting with a set of qubits in a given state, qugates then put them into superposed states. A qugate can entangle multiple qubits into
a single quantum state. A set of qugates together make a quantum circuit. To randomly output an n-bit string, a quantum circuit puts n
qubits into a superposition that reflects the desired distribution.
When the qubits are measured, the superposition pops randomly to one n-bit string. The probability of collapse to any given string
is dictated by the distribution specified by the quantum circuit. Measuring the qubits is like sampling a string from the box. The string will be highly
Scott Aaronson explains how to generate randomness. A CC uses some "seed randomness" to specify a quantum circuit, then sends the
description to the QC, which implements the circuit, measures the qubits, and returns the n-bit output string. In doing so, it has randomly
sampled from the distribution specified by the circuit. Now repeat the process over and over.
Aaronson: "It produces a long string that is nearly perfectly random."
AR The QC field is taking off nicely.
UK PM Poll Round 3
Result of today's vote
by Conservative MPs:
✗ Rory drops out
UK PM Poll Round 2
Result of today's vote
by Conservative MPs:
✗ Raab drops out
Almost a Coronation
Result of today's vote
by Conservative MPs:
⦿ The Times
⦿ ESO / A. Müller et al.
PDS 70 blacked out, center;
planet PDS 70b, right
2019 June 19
I think artificial general intelligence (AGI) is possible. There are a lot of mountains to climb before we get to human-level AGI. I think it's going to
be possible in 40−100 years.
AGI will change the world. AGIs are going to be beings with powers initially equivalent to our own and before long much greater than our
own. We need to think hard about how we design superintelligence in order to maximize good consequences.
Consciousness is a matter of subjective experience. You and I have intelligence, but we also have subjectivity. That subjectivity —
consciousness — is what makes our lives meaningful. It's also what gives us moral standing as human beings.
Gradually replace your neurons, one at a time, with computer parts or upload them to a computer. You start as a fully biological system,
and finally you're a fully silicon system. If you make it a functionally perfect simulation throughout, then you're going to be there till the end
still saying, "Yup, I'm still home!" Someone else can still say, "I think you turned into a zombie."
I value human history and selfishly would like it to continue into the future. At some point there are going to be many faster substrates
for running intelligence than our own. If we want to stick to our biological brains, then we are in danger of being left behind.
Oxford Wins AI Donation
The University of Oxford says it is to receive a £150 million donation from US billionaire Stephen Schwarzman to fund humanities research and tackle
looming social issues linked to artificial intelligence. The money will be used to create the Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.
Schwarzman: "AI is an explosive force that is going to change the world we live in in the next
10−15 years in a very profound way,
some for good and some not so good. [W]hat I realised is that Oxford had certain unique characteristics through its work on the humanities and
philosophy that would complement what the hard scientists were doing around the world."
2019 June 18
Trump and Iran
Michael H. Fuchs
The Trump administration is pushing the discourse on Iran to fever pitch in the wake of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
The fever dream convinces policymakers to cozy up to awful regimes from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates. It rationalizes support
for the war in Yemen. US allies are frustrated with its sway over US policy.
America does not need to support countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE to counter Iran. A strategy of pressure alongside dialog
produced the nuclear deal. The US should talk to Iran about regional security.
Iran could push a crisis to the brink and raise the chance of war. We need a strategy.
Facebook has revealed plans for a new global digital currency, saying 1.7 billion people around the world will be able to use Libra to make instant and
nearly free international money transfers from their mobile phones. With traditional banks sitting on the sidelines, Facebook is persuading merchants
to use Libra as a means of payment and consumers to see it as a safe store of value.
So far, 28 groups have said they will become backers and integrate the technology into their services. Facebook hopes that 100 groups
will have joined before the currency launches. Libra will be backed by a pool of currencies and assets stored around the world. It will not have a
fixed exchange rate but will not swing as wildly as cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have not yet signed up. Banks have chosen not to do so yet.
2019 June 17
The story of UK politics is following an ominous plotline. A decade on from 2008, huge social and economic disruption is changing our sense of who
we are and what we want. Unease and outrage are rising about broken systems of power.
Given a choice between an array of political parties, millions of us now jump at the chance. But our collapsing voting system still
privileges two parties. The disaffection pushing Britain toward a multi-party system is only held in check by the miserable method by which we
The fact that the online world offers people a sense of voice and influence is cohering into rising hostility toward the basics of
representative democracy. Some Conservative MPs now believe that if parliament proves troublesome, it should simply be suspended.
Representative democracy hinders immediate gratification and slows down decision making. It is unclear whether this noble ideal can
hold in the face of new technology and our new urgency about things. Impatience is rising in our politics.
Governments will have to embrace innovation. The case for pushing control down to the most local level possible now feels both urgent
and unanswerable. Politicians must get over the idea that in an election, voters should choose between two parties or effectively throw their
A nasty fate awaits Boris Johnson as surely it once awaited absolutist monarchs and the representatives of rotten boroughs. He will
strut around triumphantly for a week or two before being tossed into a political firestorm.
2019 June 16
The Closing of the Conservative Mind
Margaret Thatcher understood the power of ideas. As prime minister, she hosted seminars at Chequers to which historians and policy analysts were invited.
Her goal was not merely to reform the economy but to change the whole mindset of British society.
Since the Thatcher era, the Conservative party has shown few signs of intellectual life. In the absence of any larger economic vision, the
party has retreated behind the cleansing fire of the market. Even the nation, once understood as a living organism, stretching across time through a
web of customs and obligations, has shrivelled into the grotesque banality of UK plc.
Conservatism is no longer rooted in a historic institution that confronted it with a higher set of values than the market. Today,
Conservatives are trapped by the Second World War. The result is a cartoonish morality that privileges resolve over reflection, in which every leader
is either a Chamberlain or a Churchill and foreign policy is a question of appeasement or defiance.
Brexit is a manifestation of these changes. It has burned out the final part of the Conservative tradition, the disposition to preserve.
The tradition now resembles an apocalyptic cult, ready to torch the UK itself in order to build the New Jerusalem.
One need not be on the left to lament a politics that values no relationships that cannot be measured in profit and loss. One need not be
a conservative to fear a politics stripped of caution or respect for tradition, and that favours disruption over preservation, chaos over order, and
competition over community.
A party that once prized skepticism now judges its leaders on the fervour with which they believe in Brexit.
2019 June 15
Dynamics is the study of motion, and in particular the motion of points in a space dictated by a fixed set of rules. For example, the evolution of the
solar system, in its idealized form, unfolds exactly according to the rules of gravity.
A photograph of the current solar system is a static thing. But when you add dynamics, that static picture comes to life. Certain complicated
fractal objects are produced by dynamical systems. The geometric features of the objects carry the marks of the dynamics that produced them.
In the space of all possible solar systems, some really weird evolutions can happen. The future of our solar system is the trajectory of a
single point through this massive dynamical system.
Ergodicity is the property that if you take a point and watch it evolve over time according to a set of rules, it visits all parts of the
space. Mixing is the property that if you take a blob in the space and see how that part of the space evolves, it gets evenly distributed throughout
A foliation, in its simplest form is just a family of curves in a square. Foliations are produced all the time by dynamical systems. The
features of these foliations are key for things like mixing.
Equilibrium is fragile. Things can look stable for a long time and then suddenly fly off into some other territory. Most equilibriums are
not stable. Things can be almost imperceptibly changing, and eventually those changes start to add up, then things change really quickly. Things can
seem stable for a very long time, and then they go exponentially wrong.
For a lot of things involving human nature, historical trends, and climate, there's essentially no such thing as being in equilibrium.
2019 June 14
Brexit Britain: National Humiliation
Brexit Britain has been wallowing in a psychodrama of national humiliation. It's something Remainers and Leavers still share, even if they feel
mortified for different reasons.
Humiliation is calibrated against a sense of a status. If you're used to travelling business class, you may feel humiliated by
having to sit in economy; but if you've always sat in economy, it's normal.
When Britain was an aggressive imperial power, it was always on the lookout for intolerable slights to the national honour. But
this becomes ridiculous when you are no longer a great power.
Brexit depends on the idea that Britain cannot be an ordinary European country and that equality within the EU is inherently
humiliating. The EU traps a business-class country in economy class.
The word "humiliation" needs to be banished from the Brexit discourse. Acknowledging reality is not humiliating. Accepting
that you have made a mistake is not humiliating.
2019 June 13
European Union Presidents
Europe is picking a new batch of EU presidents. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron renewed the vows of the Franco-German relationship in January by
signing the Aachen treaty in a hall where Holy Roman Emperors once held coronation banquets.
At a summit next week, the EU will start nominating new presidents for the European Commission, European Council, European Central Bank,
and European Parliament.
Merkel backs Manfred Weber for the Commission presidency. He led the recent European election campaign for the EPP, which lost seats but
still emerged as the biggest party. EU leaders may nominate Mark Rutte of the Netherlands or Leo Varadkar of Ireland.
Macron knows agreement between Berlin and Paris is essential for the European project to advance. Appointing a Commission president
requires a weighted majority of EU national leaders to nominate a candidate and a majority in the European Parliament to approve them.
The European Council president chairs EU summits and brokers deals. Contenders include Charles Michel of Belgium, Xavier Bettel of
Luxembourg, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark.
A breakthrough ahead of the June 20 summit seems unlikely.
Boris Johnson: A Character Reference
Max Hastings, 2012
Boris Johnson is the most popular politician in Britain. The public love him.
I have known Boris more than 20 years. He worked for me as EU correspondent of the Daily Telegraph and then as a columnist when
I was the paper's editor, and I have seen plenty of him since. He is a magnificent journalist and showman.
Boris is a gold medal egomaniac. His chaotic public persona is not an act. He is also a far more ruthless, and frankly nastier, figure
than the public appreciates. He is not a man to believe in, to trust or respect, save as a superlative exhibitionist.
Boris yearns with a mad hunger to become prime minister.
Can Boris Be Trusted?
Highly accomplished. His brilliance on public display. A massive figure dominating the political stage. Boris Johnson has remodeled himself as a serious
He wants us to think he has metamorphosed, as the wayward Prince Hal of Shakespeare's plays did, into Henry V, poised to save his country
from the EU and rescue Brexit.
As to his period as foreign secretary, many mandarins speak of him with contempt. But despite the gaffes, the setbacks and the criticism,
he can claim achievements when in office. His supporters say he is not only the most talented but also the most accomplished candidate in the contest.
On top of all this, there is his charisma. It lends credibility to his claim he is the only candidate for the premiership capable of
navigating between the Scylla of Nigel Farage and the Charybdis of Jeremy Corbyn.
Behind the easy charm and effortless humour there lurks a giant brain. He is without a doubt one of the most intelligent politicians
I have met.
Boris Johnson undoubtedly has the ability to be prime minister. But can he be trusted?
2019 June 12
After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on October 31. Delay means defeat. Delay means Corbyn. Kick the can and we kick the
We cannot ignore the morass at Westminster where parties have entered a yellow box junction, unable to move forward or back, while
around the country there is a mood of disillusion, even despair, at our ability to get things done.
The longer it goes on the worse the risk that there will be serious contamination and loss of confidence, because the people of this
country deserve the best from their leader.
In everything we do we will seek to strengthen the union of our four nations. that invincible quartet, the awesome foursome that
makes up the UK, the world's soft power superpower.
I have seen across the world in our armed forces, in our diplomacy, our sheer cultural impact, how we are so much more than the sum
of our parts.
Fully Automated Luxury Communism
We live in a world of crisis, of low growth, low productivity and low wages, poverty and inequality, climate breakdown and the failure of democracy.
But with imagination, we can look forward to a wonderful future.
The plummeting cost of information and advances in technology are enabling a future of freedom and luxury for all. Automation, robotics,
and machine learning can set us free from drudgery. Unemployment is only a problem if you think all work should be cherished.
Gene editing and sequencing can revolutionize medical practice. Hereditary diseases can be eliminated, and cancer cured. New technologies
can allow us to keep pace with the health challenges of societal aging.
Renewable energy can meet global energy needs and enable a shift away from fossil fuels. Asteroid mining can provide us with not only
more energy than we need but also more iron, gold, platinum, and nickel. Resource scarcity will be a thing of the past.
The consequences are potentially transformative. For technological unemployment, global poverty, societal aging, climate change, and
resource scarcity, we can see solutions.
Capitalism has created the new abundance. But it cannot distribute the fruits. A system where things are produced only for profit seeks
to ration resources to ensure returns. The result will be imposed scarcity, with not enough food, health care, or energy to go around.
For a better world, we have to go beyond capitalism. We will need a new politics, where technology serves people, not profit, where
we accept facts, not fantasies. We need fully automated luxury communism.
Two Planets and a Moon
Astronomers have discovered baby planets in the disks of gas and dust around young stars.
A star some 370 light years away called PDS 70, slightly smaller than the Sun and roughly 5 million years old, shows evidence of two
newborn planets. The planets are so young they are still growing. One of them is surrounded by its own swirling disk of gas and dust.
A planet called PDS 70b is orbiting inside the disk around the star and is emitting red and IR light as hot hydrogen falls in. A second
baby giant planet, PDS 70c, is still sucking up ambient hydrogen.
An empty band in the disk of PDS 70 starts from as far out as where Uranus orbits in our solar system and extends to about three times
that distance. PDS 70b orbits near the inner edge of this band gap. PDS 70c orbits near the outer edge in a 1:2 orbital resonance.
Separate measurements of the system show the light from PDS 70b includes more red light than expected. A disk of dusty stuff around the
planet absorbs heat, then reradiates it in IR wavelengths. In theoretical models, disks like these form moons.
"That is a country that
doesn't even believe in
economic or political
Rafael Behr (1:37)
"Hard Brexit is the drug
the Conservatives need to
wean themselves off."
"The price of greatness
Stephen Hawking and
James Hartle proposed
the universe has no
boundary and derived
a wave function of
D-Day: 75 years ago today
Zlatko Minev et al.
show quantum leaps
2019 June 11
Toxic Brexit High
A UK government minister predicts Boris Johnson will win the leadership contest, but his premiership will be brief: "The Tory party is on life support.
Boris is like a shot of morphine — they will feel great for a bit then realize it's killed them."
Whitehall civil servants are in a state of permanent revolution. A permanent secretary: "We have dealt with so much change already.
It's constant turbulence, which is unsettling for the civil service and destabilizing for the country."
AR My prescription: Go cold turkey. Ask the leadership candidates to discuss how they would end austerity. Don't even
mention the B-word. Let Theresa May, as her final duty, revoke Article 50. Then dump the whole disgusting B-mess into a deep pit.
2019 June 10
Banging On About Brexit
The Brexit approach of hardliners such as Boris Johnson recalls the fabled Briton abroad who believes if he shouts loudly enough, the foreigners will
eventually understand. Through sheer force of personality, we are told, they will be able to renegotiate the withdrawal deal. Should that prove
impossible, they will walk Britain off the plank on October 31.
Neither outcome is achievable. The EU27 have repeatedly declined to reopen the withdrawal agreement and its Irish backstop. The House
of Commons will vote against a no-deal Brexit.
Trying to force the issue would trigger a constitutional crisis. Talk of proroguing parliament is irresponsible. A prime minister
faced with such a crisis would have to call an election.
German politicians were outraged by images of Boris Johnson relaxing with the aristocrat Charles Spencer in cricket whites just after
the Brexit vote.
Bundespräsident und damals Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: ".. unverantwortliche Politiker, die
sich jetzt aus dem Staub machen und Cricket spielen gehen."
Electing Boris into 10 Downing Street could further strain relations between the UK and the EU.
SPD foreign affairs spokesman Nils Schmid: "It would be perceived as a sign that the UK is further distancing itself from Europe.
It would also be seen as a reward for the politician who did the most to create the illusions about Brexit."
Bundestag foreign affairs committee chair Norbert Röttgen: "Brexit has never been a matter of principle for [Boris]. It was
only ever a vehicle to become PM."
2019 June 9
The Great Reboot
Any sustainable future for Western civilization must involve a radical rethink of classical economics and democratic politics. Continuing the path that
we as a species on Earth have been following for decades will spell our certain doom before the century is out. We humans must learn to go beyond
the thinking that led to our planetary dominion and reconsider our deeper identity. We shall only master the crises we have precipitated if we
learn to identify with all life on Earth.
The salient problems of governance today, considered globally, for human life as a whole, can be packaged under three main themes:
▸ Our great economic challenge is to optimize resource allocation, which in human terms implies
reducing or managing inequalities of income or wealth.
▸ Our great ecological challenge is to optimize our environment, which implies finding ways to
reduce or manage climate change and species loss.
▸ Our great technological challenge is to find ways to deploy artificial intelligence and all its fruits,
if not optimally then at least so as not to orchestrate the emergence of artificial life in toxic or
hostile forms but instead to lead us toward a future where the remainder of the human journey
on Earth is lived out productively and pleasantly.
The interactions of these three challenges give rise to governance problems that will almost certainly overwhelm any foreseeable human
capacity to orchestrate effective solutions within the paradigms that presently constrain thinking in economics and politics.
We are used to seeing the reality around us as represented by a vast array of classical bits, embodied in physical things and so on.
The more general quantum view is that we are on a raft of bits floating in an ocean of qubits. The paradigm shift from classical to quantum
computation will lead to a great reboot of our governance models.
PDF, 10+ pages, in prep.
2019 June 8
The Greatest Generation
To honor the sacrifices of D-Day, we would do well to recall what the Allies fought for — not to save the United States or even Britain
(which by 1944 could not be beaten) but to liberate Europe; not to defeat an aggressive nation-state but to eradicate a despicable ideology;
not to enjoy the spoils as the victors but to lay the foundations of a just and enduring peace; not to subsume our values
under our interests but to define our interests according to our values.
A Mirror Universe?
Parity says everything should stay the same if the universe were flipped as in a mirror. In 1956, Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang proposed an experimental
test for parity violations. Chien-Shiung Wu ran the experiment and found parity was violated. Lee and Yang suggested that parity is
in fact conserved, and only appears to be violated because we are seeing only half the picture.
Over time, neutrons outside an atomic nucleus decay into electrons and protons via beta decay. For decades, we have been trying to measure
how long these free neutrons live before they decay.
We have two ways to measure the lifetime of a free neutron. The bottle experiment herds neutrons into a magnetic bottle trap, waits, and
counts how many neutrons are left. This method sets the average lifetime at 879 seconds. The beam experiment counts the number of protons from decaying
neutrons in a beam of neutrons. This method sets the neutron lifetime at 888 s.
The discrepancy is unexplained, but a mirror world could explain it. Perhaps neutrons oscillate back and forth between the two worlds. If
1 in 100 neutrons swap into the mirror world before emitting a proton, this can explain the longer measured neutron lifetime in the beam experiments.
Many other puzzles can be explained using the same model. The mirror world could even provide a haven for dark matter and explain why it
is so difficult to find. A mirror sector will not interact with us via the electromagnetic, strong, and weak forces, but only via gravity.
To be consistent with our models of cosmic evolution, the mirror sector must have been much cooler than our own. This would have let more
particles move into it. The mirror models suggest five mirror particles for every regular particle, the same as our estimates of the ratio of dark to
Even if we do find mirror neutrons, a lot of work remains to make them a fit for dark matter.
2019 June 7
Conservative leadership candidate and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab says he would consider proroguing parliament — ending the session
— to prevent MPs forcing the government into another delay. Such a move would require the prime minister to go to Buckingham Palace to seek
the Queen's permission.
Conservative leadership candidate and current health secretary Matt Hancock: "To suspend parliament explicitly to pursue a course of
action against its wishes is not a serious policy of a prime minister in the 21st century. What kind of message would this send around the world
about our values when so many have given so much for the rights of democratic freedom?"
2019 June 6
Asimina Arvanitaki is interested in hypothetical particles called axions. Some versions of string theory operate in 10 dimensions. The 6 beyond those
we know must be scrunched up, which may give rise to axions in what she calls a string axiverse.
Black hole superradiance could enable us to detect axions. If you fire a photon at a spinning black hole, it will pull energy and
angular momentum from the hole. If you do the same thing with an axion, gravity confines it to the vicinity of the black hole, almost as if the
axion is stuck between the black hole and a spherical mirror.
Eventually the amplification becomes exponential, says Arvanitaki. Such superradiance would create a huge cloud of axions arranged in
shells, like atomic orbitals on a huge scale. Their wavelength must match the black hole circumference, but wavelength is inversely proportional
to mass, and axions have extremely low mass.
These axion clouds could reveal themselves in gravitational waves. Axions colliding in the cloud should annihilate into gravitons.
Arvanitaki says axions and black holes might form gravitational beacons. She is working with
AR On LIGO, see also blog 2018-06-23.
Researchers built a superconducting electrical circuit with quantum behavior like an atom with three energy levels: the ground state, a bright state,
and a dark state.
When they fired a beam of microwaves at the system, the atom usually bounced rapidly between the ground state and the bright state,
emitting a photon every time it jumped from bright to ground. But if it absorbed a photon from the beam, it would leap into the dark state.
The researchers could tell when a quantum jump had started by looking for a flash of light from the bright state followed by a lull
as the atom leapt into the dark state. On timescales of a few microseconds, they could predict when the next jump would occur.
If, just after the jump had started, they hit the atom with an electrical pulse, they could send the atom back to the ground state.
The leaps took the same path between the two energy levels every time, so it was easy to predict how to bounce them back.
The quantum leaps took about 4 μs.
AR This could be important.
⦿ Dominic Lipinski
"Nigel Farage is a friend of
mine, Boris is a friend of mine.
They are two very good guys,
very interesting people."
"A new prime minister should
sit down with the new EU
commissioner on 1 November
and negotiate a new deal."
⦿ SOPA Images/LightRocket
Sophia is an AI
2019 June 5
Existential Security Risk
National Centre for Climate Restoration
Climate change now represents an existential threat to human civilization. A new approach to climate-related security risk management is thus required.
A 2050 scenario is outlined.
To sustain human civilization, it is essential to build a zero-emissions industrial system very quickly. This requires a global
mobilization of resources, akin to a wartime level of response.
Breakthrough policy paper (PDF, 11 pages, 426 KB)
Tories in Deep Peril
Rishi Sunak, Robert Jenrick, Oliver Dowden
We are in deep peril. The Conservative party is facing an existential threat.
We face Nigel Farage and his Brexit party, on one hand, and Jeremy Corbyn on the other. We must fight for the future of the country.
The three of us believe the dangers that face our nation and our party are too grave and too imminent to take a chance. We believe there
really is only one logical answer: Boris Johnson.
The first task of our next prime minister will be to deliver on the Referendum result. Boris commands the instant credibility needed to
achieve support for a renegotiated deal. He is a proven winner and leader with a record of achievement.
These are not normal times.
AR They must be desperate.
2019 June 4
State Banquet Speech
Queen Elizabeth II
I am delighted to welcome [Donald and Melania] Trump to Buckingham Palace this evening .. Visits by American presidents always remind us of the close
and longstanding friendship between the United Kingdom and the United States.
After the shared sacrifices of the Second World War, Britain and the United States worked with other allies to build an assembly of
international institutions, to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated. While the world has changed, we are forever mindful
of the original purpose of these structures: nations working together to safeguard a hard-won peace.
Tonight, we celebrate an alliance that has helped to ensure the safety and prosperity of both our peoples for decades, and which I
believe will endure for many years to come.
In 1952, Stalin made a peace offer to America, France, and Britain. He proposed to unify Germany and suggested that a neutral Germany might also have
free elections. But West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer refused.
Adenauer decided West Germany's survival required it to be bound tightly to the other nations of the West, so he rejected the Soviet
offer of unification. Europeans created a series of Western institutions and learned to share sovereignty. Growth and industrialization were
accompanied by a parallel growth in social benefits, and economic success inspired a cultural explosion.
By contrast, the history of Eastern Europe was one of failure. Economically, the East also recovered and rebuilt, but much more slowly
and much less completely. By the 1970s, the myth of Europe was strong enough to lure Spain, Portugal, and Greece away from dictatorship, toward
democracy, and into European institutions, and even to persuade the UK to join the European Economic Community. And it was powerful enough to send
the iron curtain crashing down for good in 1989.
Over a mere couple of decades, 90 million people accepted civilian control over the army, the establishment of an independent judiciary,
laws on human rights, and a host of economic regulations. The new member states all agreed that to reestablish their national sovereignty, they
would have to surrender some of that sovereignty to European institutions.
Belief in Western economic superiority was shattered by the financial crisis of 2008−2009. Europe survived it, but the economic
crisis was followed by further blows. Russia modernized its military and made flagrant attempts to manipulate European politics. A wave of terror
attacks caused a backlash against Muslim immigration. After the influx of refugees in 2015, the backlash intensified.
The result has been a rise in both antidemocratic and anti-European political parties all across the continent. They all share an
anti-establishment rhetoric that is often profoundly cynical. But it is effective, thanks both to growing fears of instability as well as new
tools of social media that favor emotional and angry language over calm and reasoned debate.
Doubts about European values threaten to undo Adenauer's decision to choose integration. Nobody now in political office has any
real memory of World War II. The European story could go awry.
2019 June 3
Trump Is Divisive
US president Donald Trump called former UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson "very talented" and said: "I think Boris would do a very good job.
I think he would be excellent. I have always liked him."
Former UK ambassador to the US Sir Christopher Meyer: "Trump has smashed one of the most sacred conventions of diplomacy, that
a head of state does not interfere in the internal affairs of the country which he or she is visiting. Trump needs to be very careful."
Britain Is Divided
The debate about Brexit is hardening. Compromise options seem to have been killed off by the 23 May vote, leaving no deal or revoking Article 50
as the only options.
Among the prime movers of the rising no-deal movement, there is a misanthropy encompassing not just age-old biases and bigotries but
the idea that each and every advocate of a rethink on Brexit is a citizen of nowhere, and a traitor to boot.
What has driven our fragmentation is winner-takes-all economics, the stalling of social mobility, and online discourse that has no
room for restraint or compromise. Too many people understand little about the country they call home.
Brexiteers boast of splendid isolation, the glories of the second world war, and the wonders of empire, yet avert their eyes from the
island of Ireland. Remainers continue to deny the great mess of stuff that sat behind the Brexit vote.
Two big dangers face the UK now. One is a reckless Brexit pursued at any cost. The other is a tribal war that pushes us so far away
from history, humanity, and economics that politics is pointless.
2019 June 2
Go 4 No Deal Brexit
Get it done. Get the deal closed. I would walk away. If you don't get the deal you want, if you don't get a fair deal, then you walk away. I wouldn't pay
$50 billion. That is me. I would not pay. That is a tremendous number.
What I would do is, for those mistakes made by the EU that cost the UK a lot of money and a lot of harm, I would have put that on the table,
whether it is in the form of litigation or in the form of a request. But they chose not to do that. It's very hard for the UK to get a good deal when
they go into the negotiation that way.
We have the potential to be an incredible trade partner with the UK. We have tremendous potential to make up more than the difference. We
will be talking to them about that. One of the advantages of Brexit is the fact that now you can deal with the #1 economy in the world by far.
Go 4 Bo
Mail on Sunday
Our poll shows:
— Voters are now less concerned about the effects of a hard Brexit
— Voters see Boris Johnson as likeable, competent, and trustworthy
— His stance on Brexit boosts his chance of becoming prime minister
No 2 No
The Brexit puzzle:
— We are not leaving on 31 October with a deal
— Parliament will block a no-deal Brexit
— There is no time to do a revised deal
2019 June 1
Writing an AI Constitution
An Edge Conversation
◼ Stephen Wolfram:
As soon as you have a system whose behavior is not obviously simple, you end up getting something that is as sophisticated computationally
as it can be, which means it's a universal computer. I call this the principle of computational equivalence.
But we can't automate the deciding of what we want to do. In human language, we come up with particular kinds of abstractions that are
based on things that are common in our world. Human language has this feature that takes thoughts in our brains and tries to make some simplified
symbolic representation of those thoughts that can then be communicated to another brain that will unpack them and do something with them.
When people make contracts with each other, they write those contracts in human language. If one can make a computational language that
can represent things in the world richly enough to be able to talk about the kinds of things that are in contracts, then you have a different story
about how you can create things like contracts. You can write a constitution for your AIs.
◼ David Chalmers:
You come up against theorems in social choice theory. If we break it down into ten separate issues, say, we see there's a majority that
prefers A and there's a majority that prefers if A then B, but there's not a majority that prefers B. You can't just go with democracy on every
component, and then suddenly use a system for extrapolating from all these individual preferences. You need to find ways to make the tradeoffs.
This whole thing of turning morality into code is not a new problem. The legal code and the political code have been trying to
formalize this for centuries. The only way to do it is via a huge mess. So, I predict that once you try and turn it into AI code, it's
going to be a mess as well.
AR To see an example of the inapplicability of modus ponens in contemporary political praxis, set
A = Leave and B = Hard. A mess indeed.
⦿ Universum Film GmbH
The New Yorker
Made with a budget of $47 million, the TV series Babylon Berlin is adapted from the best-selling novels by Volker Kutscher,
and is set in the Berlin of 1929, in the twilight of the Weimar Republic.
The story follows police inspector Gereon Rath, who arrives in Berlin seeking to forget his traumatic wartime experiences.
His unlikely partner is aspiring homicide detective Charlotte Ritter, eager to escape the hardships of her proletarian family
home. Gereon and Lotte soon discover conspiracies and intrigue on a shocking scale. Among the rich ensemble of characters
and story lines are a hijacked freight train, police factions, Soviet agents, organized crime, Communist revolutionaries,
and aristocratic reactionaries.
Part period drama, part police procedural, and part mystery thriller, the show always has an undercurrent of foreboding.
AR I watched all 16 episodes of series 1 and 2 (Blu-ray, in German) and found it utterly captivating.
This is a complex, often disturbing, sometimes shocking, and apparently quite realistic dramatic reconstruction of an
extraordinary milieu that was quite unprecedented in modern history. If any media production from our time deserves
to become a classic of insightful recreation of a pivotal period of history, this series does.
I guess it will eventually be dubbed in English.
Zu Asche, Zu Staub
Latest UK Poll
R ≃ 51%
L ≃ 41%
By Jim Al-Khalili
My Amazon review
Boris 4 Jail?
Boris Johnson will appear
in court, charged with
lying to the public
3 Brexit scenarios
Next UK Prime Minister
Top Five candidates
by Tory MP pledges:
Brexit: Pro vs Anti
⦿ PA / BBC
* LD, Green, SNP, CUK, PC
** Brexit, UKIP
2019 May 31
The European Union has to prove its vitality every day. Four countries among 28 are now part of the G8. In 2050, only Germany will be. If we want to be
at the table, to promote our values, to take part in negotiations, we have to remain together.
The EU is a way to create more sovereignty and more power in those fields where our nations have lost power. We have to see the world as
it is, not as it was. Speaking with one voice on issues of trade or competition makes us a global actor.
The more the economy is global, the more people need to be reassured that their roots will be respected. This is why the EU is so complex.
We don't want to become one nation or one people. There is no ambition to build a distinct and homogeneous federal state.
The reasons for Brexit run deep. We have to respect popular sentiment in Britain, the hope for a return to a powerful global Britain,
nostalgia for the past. But there were also people voting for Brexit who simply don't want to accept rules. Some based in the City of London voted to
leave, as they don't want to accept EU regulations on their trading.
Finally, and most importantly, there are many people who feel abandoned. They feel that the quality of public services, healthcare,
transport, is worsening. We must listen to them.
There are three options: a deal based on the agreement finalized six months ago, withdrawal without a deal, or no Brexit. It will have
to be the choice of the UK. Even if we regret their decision profoundly, it is their sovereign decision and we have to respect it.
Today the UK and Ireland are part of the same single market, the same customs union. Cooperation between both countries in Northern
Ireland is based on the Good Friday Agreement. The EU supported the peace process by providing funding and the economic boost from borderless trade,
but also because of the rights that it granted people on both sides as European citizens.
The single market is not a supermarket. Freedom of movement for goods, services, capital, and people are fundamental. The EU is not
only an economic project but also a political project.
We want the UK to remain our partner, friend, and ally.
Nigel Farage plans to lead an assault on Westminster and the parties failing to deliver Brexit.
The UK is bitterly divided. Its traditional two-party political system is cracking up. Conservative and Labour politicians are in panic
mode as voters switch to parties that offer a clear alternative: Leave (L) or Remain (R).
The European elections gutted the center. The L parties (Brexit and UKIP) polled 35% with their demand to leave the EU now. The R parties
(Lib Dems, Greens, Scottish and Welsh nationalists, Change UK) polled 40%.
Willingness to deliver a "no-deal Brexit" has become the test for any aspiring Conservative leader. But any UK prime minister who defies
MPs risks chaos. So, a general election or a second referendum.
Conservatives will not hold a general election with Brexit unresolved. Revoking Article 50 and abandoning Brexit is unthinkable, MPs will
not accept a compromise deal, and parliament will block a no-deal Brexit.
A second referendum would probably ask: Leave without a deal or Remain. Conservatives would fight alongside Farage as the hard L party.
Labour would be an R party, alongside Lib Dems and others.
In the struggle of L against R, the Westminster center cannot hold.
AR Conservatives — smell the coffee and go for R.
2019 May 30
Fizzy Quantum Foam
The expansion of the universe may be accelerating because quantum fizz makes space foam up.
The vacuum catastrophe is the problem that most theories predict a wildly high value of the cosmological constant. Qingdi Wang and
William Unruh (WU) offer a model to solve the problem.
John Wheeler said the universe is foamy at the Planck scale. In the WU model, the vacuum energy is constantly fluctuating as each point
in space expands and contracts like a tiny cyclic universe. The bubble universes bounce from contracting to expanding, and vacuum energy pumps up a
bubble slightly with each bounce.
As the bubbles fizz, the universe as a whole expands. On a macro scale, we see a smooth universe accelerating outward. The fizz is
far too fine to see, but it solves the vacuum catastrophe.
The model does not yet describe the bounces and is not yet squared with general relativity.
AR Bill Unruh was a Wheeler grad student, like Dick Feynman.
2019 May 29
"If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.
[But] we are unable to reach that judgment."
Robert S. Mueller III
Nigel Farage, Public Enemy #1
Nigel Farage is a dangerous demagogue. His Brexit party won nearly a third of the British vote in the European Parliament elections.
Thanks to his success, there is enormous pressure on the Conservatives to deliver Brexit in October, deal or no deal. The Brexit party
has no members and no manifesto, and none of its candidates were democratically selected. It offered only one policy: a no-deal Brexit. Its rallies
are star shows by Farage, who talks about sovereignty lost to Europe, unfairness and immigration.
Farage made his money as a City trader. He is the Gordon Gekko of British politics. He opposes anything that inconveniences his nouveau
riche confederates. If he had his way, many of his supporters would be working harder, longer, for less money, with less protection. He hates the
EU because its moderate social legislation and free movement defy his social Darwinism.
Farage has spotted an opportunity, a new political model. Dropping his previous vehicle UKIP, a traditional membership party, Farage
launched something like a venture capitalist start-up, with crowd-funders rather than members, and a chief executive rather than a leader.
His Brexit party won the battle for clicks and made a killing in the election.
Matt Hancock 4 PM
UK health secretary Matt Hancock: "To the people who say fuck business, I say fuck fuck business."
Aged 40, Hancock is the youngest contender to succeed Theresa May. He first entered parliament in 2010. He said he would not pursue a
no-deal Brexit: "The brutal reality is, no deal is not a policy choice available to the next prime minister."
On a second referendum: "I'm a democrat and we follow the results of votes in this country."
Bollocks 2 Brexit
UK statistics from the European election results suggest Remain would have won easily if this had been a proxy referendum on UK membership in the EU.
If the Leave and Remain bloc totals were presented as a binary choice in a second referendum, the result would have been:
In total, the Remain bloc won 9.3 million votes, the Leave bloc 7 million. The results are consistent with the tracking polls taken
by YouGov since the 2016 Brexit referendum.
A majority of Brits think Brexit was the wrong decision.
2019 May 28
In Britain and America, a deep crisis of conservatism has been building since the end of the Reagan and Thatcher governments. Transatlantic conservatism
as we have known it may be dying.
In the UK, Conservative party membership has been dwindling for decades. Last year, it was down to 124,000, with an average age of 57.
Under Reagan and Thatcher, conservatives promoted a Darwinian but inclusive capitalism to keep the economy evolving while also preserving
the social fabric. Yet the economic benefits of this model have dwindled, while its social costs have increasingly hit naturally conservative groups.
The rise of populists such as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage convinced many people that populism is the new incarnation of conservatism. But
its electoral success may be a sign of conservative decay rather than renewal. Trump and Farage depend even more than traditional conservatives on white
male rage against a changing world.
Following the end of the Cold War, Conservatism became a faith. Any failures by the right were blamed on a lack of belief.
British conservatives found a scapegoat. The European Union was pro-business, and the European single market had been partly Thatcher's
creation. But the EU was a rival power center. It saw politics as about compromise rather than conviction and was relatively liberal in its social
and cultural values. As a new enemy for conservatives, it proved irresistible.
Euroscepticism gave British conservatism new energy. Boris Johnson took malicious glee in distorting his accounts of EU activities. But
there was a cost. Much of the movement lost interest in facts.
The logical conclusion of the politics of minimal facts and maximum conviction was the Brexit referendum. When Trump also won after a
campaign even more based on magical thinking, it seemed that conservative populism had prospects.
Conservatives are going to have to address the climate emergency, the collapse of confidence in capitalism, and the rise of inequality
to explosive levels. The conservatism of Trump and Farage offers no lasting solutions.
UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt says it will be political suicide for the Conservative party to push for the UK to leave the EU with no deal in October:
"I'm worried [that] it could lead to the destruction of our party system and the end of my own party."
UK international development secretary Rory Stewart: "I've negotiated in Iraq and in Afghanistan and the lesson I've taken from that is
the key thing is to get agreement on what shared future you want together."
AR Farage offers no future.
2019 May 27
European Elections 2019
The New European Parliament
The citizens of 28 EU member states have elected a new European Parliament. The centre-right European People's party and centre-left Socialists and
Democrats look set to lose their combined majority for the first time, but they remain the two biggest parties. What they lost, liberal and green
groups have gained: Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and European Greens/European Free Alliance saw a big increase in seats. European
Conservatives and Reformists will likely lose a few seats, while Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy will make gains. Europe of Nations and
Freedom on the far right made the biggest gains so far, propelled by the results in Italy and France.
Live results from 28 member states
Targeting UK Democracy
Brexit party leader Nigel Farage claims victory, but Brexit is no longer his principal concern. His new analysis is that British democracy does not work
and does not even exist. Every organ of the state and political life is malign and works against the interests of the people.
The Americanization of British politics it is already here: the tenor of the rallies, the rhetoric from the stage, the way party messages
are communicated. Bitterness, anger, contempt — the crowd is united in believing the establishment is out to screw them.
Like Donald Trump, Farage represents salvation: that someone finally listens and understands. The UK has imported a culture war where the
two sides have no conception of how the other conceives the world around them.
Results so far for the UK
Northern Ireland (3 MEPs) has yet to report.
AR The UK is the EU member most infected by separatism.
⦿ JOEL SAGET / AFP
EU wide turnout over 50%
⦿ Saul Loeb
Eurovision Song Contest
The scores (blog May 19)
have been corrected: The
Netherlands' winning score
goes up to 498, the UK's
losing score goes down
2019 May 26
European Elections 2019
2345 SW England: Brexit 3, Lib Dem 2, Green 1
2304 London: Lib Dem 3, Brexit 2, Labour 2, Green 1
2217 Lib Dems hold Gibraltar.
Cold War 2
Cold War 2 began when Donald Trump imposed the first tariffs on Chinese imports last year. Peace will not break out when Trump meets Xi Jinping at the
G20 summit in Osaka next month. The escalation of antagonism is like the early phase of the Cold War 1.
But 2019 isn't 1949. The profound entanglement of America and China is quite unlike the almost total separation of the United States from
the Soviet Union 70 years ago. The networked world forged by decades of commercial aviation, global markets for commodities, manufactures, labor,
capital, and above all the internet is new.
The Thirty Years War (1618−1638) was a time of terrorism and gruesome violence, with no clear distinction between soldiers and
civilians. The worst-affected areas suffered death and depopulation. States underestimated the costs of getting involved in the conflict. Both
Britain and France did so, only to slide into civil war.
The implications of this analogy are not cheering. Thanks to technology, most things happen roughly 10 times faster than they did 400
years ago. We may be heading for a Three Years War.
The 1648 Peace of Westphalia established power-sharing arrangements between the Holy Roman Emperor and the German princes, as well as
between the rival religious groups, on the basis of limited and conditional rights. The peace was underpinned by mutual guarantees.
The Cold War ended when one side folded. That will not happen in our time.
2019 May 25
Ratting On Brexit
They said the job couldn't be done
They said she couldn't do it
She took the job that couldn't be done
And .. she couldn't do it
Somebody has to square with the British people. It is about Remain or Leave.
Boris is a rascal. Casual disregard for the truth, reckless caprice, lazy disregard for detail, weak negotiating skills, moral
turpitude, and failure as foreign secretary. But he might be capable of ratting on his promise to take us out of the EU and getting away with it.
A prime minister intent on Brexit could thwart parliament. This would be nuclear, a coup against representative democracy, a breach of
the unwritten constitution, a descent into infamy. After the amputation, gangrene would infect the rump UK.
But it might not end in calamity. He might tell us that this Brexit business has got into such a toxic muddle that we need to rip
it up and start again — revoke Article 50 and refer back to the people.
2019 May 24
The End of May
Theresa May has resigned. A new prime minister will take over by the end of July. May will step down as Conservative leader on June 7 and stay on at
10 Downing Street until a new leader is elected.
"It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum. To succeed, he or she will have to find
consensus in parliament where I have not. Such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise."
AR And another one down. When will they ever learn? Love EU and live or leave EU and die.
It seems likely that the next occupant of No 10 will be a full-throated Brexiteer. MPs will cut down the candidate list to two,
but the Conservative membership will decide the ultimate victor. Polls suggest Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab will win.
Both have already suggested they will pledge to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement with Brussels. They will say a new prime minister
ready to play hardball, will force Brussels to back down. The reality is that Brussels will not change its fundamental red lines.
Assuming a hard Brexiteer is elected, the new prime minister faces the same parliamentary arithmetic as before. One option would be to
disregard parliament altogether. The law will take the UK out of the EU on October 31 unless they act to stop it.
A future PM could prorogue parliament until D-Day had passed. That would be a nuclear option. The second option would be to behave so
badly in Brussels that the EU27 decides to kick Britain out regardless of what parliament wants.
Calling a snap election would be a high-stakes strategy and deeply unappealing to Conservative MPs. Johnson is rumoured in Westminster
to have been mooting a second referendum, a straight choice between no deal and Remain.
Get ready for the hurricane.
Boris Johnson is on course to become prime minister unless he blunders spectacularly. It could even be a coronation.
The big question is whether Johnson can reverse out of the ideological corner in which he has parked himself. Saying "Fuck business"
was monumentally foolish. Siding with the Leave campaign because his rival backed Remain, and then failing for two and a half years to come up with
a plan for what leaving the EU would involve, was monstrously irresponsible. Yet his opportunism makes him capable of reinvention.
Johnson will be faced with a choice. Either he could take the UK out of the EU and into WTO rules, which would be economically
catastrophic, or he could admit that there are only two ways out of the deadlock: a second referendum or a general election.
The Conservative party membership still adores Boris. But selecting him would be a huge gamble.
Man of Destiny
Britain now faces the real prospect of Boris Johnson moving into 10 Downing Street. He would do so as the country faces its gravest crisis since WW2.
He would have been chosen by a poll of 120-odd thousand Conservative party members.
Johnson would be the least qualified prime minister of modern times. His only ministerial experience consists of two dire years as foreign
secretary. He is also spectacularly lacking in the moral qualifications required to lead the country.
Johnson is adored by the Tory grass roots and he is the one contender who can outdo Nigel Farage on demagoguery. But he is divisive.
A recent poll showed 28% of the public thought he would make a good prime minister, but 54% thought he would make a bad one.
Johnson is abhorred in the EU, which he once compared to the Third Reich. There is no way they would concede to his demands. It is
doubtful they would even agree to reopen negotiations, let alone extend the Article 50 deadline once more.
He could call a general election and then lose it. Defeat would almost certainly mean the end of Brexit. Johnson could be
Donald Trump promises to make America great again. Centrist Democrats are scandalized that Trump ever called its greatness into question. The American
left draws its inspiration from a narrative that is no less patriotic and nationalistic than that of its opponents.
Perhaps the embrace of the national narrative is doing Americans a disservice. It may turn out that the historical significance of the
Trump crisis is to immunize an entire generation against any form of celebratory American exceptionalism. Yet Trump's victory can be seen as a
harbinger of a broader wave of nationalist populism around the world.
Supporters of a roughnecked illiberal democracy express comprehensive revulsion toward Davos technocratic liberalism. With good reason
the gilets jaunes and many of those who voted for Brexit imagine that the governing class regards them with disdain. Their reaction is a
truculent reassertion of popular sovereignty.
There is an alarming rise in authoritarian attitudes, even among younger Europeans and Americans. Support for strongmen and military
leadership is increasingly prevalent among those in their twenties. The United States, far from being a democratic exception, fits squarely in
this mold, with high levels of support for authoritarian rule.
Democracies are fragile because they depend on competing parties accepting common norms. Norms are essential because without them,
constitutional checks and balances do not serve as the bulwarks of democracy. America's political system at this moment is under threat.
To transform itself, America may need to experience a catastrophe similar to that of Germany in WW2. The reformation of the German CDU
after 1945 made a crucial contribution to the success of democracy in postwar Germany. But it took the absolute defeat of Hitler's regime in 1945
to set the conditions for the reconstruction of German conservatism.
Democracy is likely to die not with a bang but with a whimper. It lacks a means to address the challenge of mounting inequality and
offers no escape from the mindless operation of bureaucratic and technological power. Meritocratic authoritarianism is finding defenders among
anodyne professors of political science.
Some problems are too hard to solve in any reasonable amount of time. But their solutions are easy to check. The class of problems that are hard to
solve but easy to verify is called NP, for nondeterministic polynomial time.
In 1985, it was proved that you can verify a solution to a problem by repeatedly probing the prover about the solution to problems
that are beyond NP. The new class of problems was called IP, for interactive polynomial time.
In 1988, it was proved that if you ask two computers to solve the same problem separately and then interrogate them separately about
their answers, you can verify a class of problems called MIP, for multi-prover interactive proofs. In NP, the size of verifiable problems grows
at a linear rate. But in MIP, it grows exponentially.
In a new paper, John Wright and Anand Natarajan (NW) show how to use quantum computers to check answers to problems of even higher
complexity. They consider a scenario involving two separate quantum computers that share entangled qubits. The class of problems they consider
is called NEEXP, for nondeterministic doubly exponential time.
NW show how to verify a solution by making the provers interrogate their own solutions using entangled states as a shared resource
to generate connected questions. Two quantum computers make complementary measurements, limited by the uncertainty principle, and entanglement
allows them to generate correlated questions, but the uncertainty principle prevents them from colluding when answering them.
Before NW, there was a much lower limit on our hard knowledge. If we were presented with an answer to a problem in NEEXP, we had to
take it on faith. Now we can verify it.
⦿ Dorset for Europe
Proportional Voting for the European Parliament
England, Scotland and Wales: Illustrative Example
Imagine 5 parties contesting 5 seats in a region. If the Brexit party has the most votes,
the first MEP seat goes to the candidate at the top of the Brexit party list (see table).
The number of votes for the Brexit party is divided by 2 (its number of seats + 1).
The Lib Dem party now has the most votes, so the second seat goes to the top Lib Dem candidate.
The number of Lib Dem votes is divided by 2 (= 1 + 1), so the third seat goes to the Brexit party,
which now has 50 votes, the highest number. The seat goes to the second person on the party list.
The original number of votes for the Brexit party is divided by 3 (= 2 + 1).
Lib Dems and the Greens both have 40 votes and win the fourth and fifth seats.
One seat goes to the second Lib Dem candidate and one to the top name on the Green list.
Votes step 1
Votes step 2
100/2 = 50
Votes step 3
80/2 = 40
Votes step 4
100/3 = 33
UK Seats in the European Parliament
The UK is divided into 12 electoral regions: 9 in England, 1 each for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
The contesting parties each submit a list of candidates to voters in each region. In all there are 73 UK MEPs.
The SW Region of England (including BCP and Gibraltar) elects 6 MEPs.
(Best for Britain, May 19, sample size 9,260)
National Vote Share
Brexit 34%, Lib Dem 17%, Labour 15%, Conservative 11%, Change UK 9%, Green 4%, other 10%
SW Region Vote Share
Brexit 42%, Lib Dem 20%, Green 12%, Conservative 9%, Labour 8%, Change UK 4%, other 5%
SW Region: Tactical voting to stop Brexit
If 1.5 million people vote (30% turnout), projected results are (in thousands, rounded)
In this case, Lib Dems only need 20k more votes to change the result to: Brexit 3, Lib Dem 2, Green 1
★ Tactical advice: Vote Lib Dem ★
Click for printable A4 page
May 9, 2019
By Chris Bernardt
My Amazon review
⦿ Ronen Zvulun
Duncan Laurence sings
A Horror Story
Among the Dead Cities
By A.C. Grayling
My Amazon review
The Essence and
Value of Democracy
2019-04-04 — 2019-09-22
2019 May 22
A Speech to Europe 2019
The European story is a nice story that there were small European nation states who in their nice little way realized that economic interests united them.
The history of the 20th century is that European powers, which for the previous 500 years had dominated the world, found themselves forced to pull
back to Europe, and there created something new.
The European Union is a new thing.
We have to remember the Holocaust. It was an event on a scale that defies national memory. It had three basic causes: ecological panic,
dehumanization, and state destruction. The Jews were blamed by Hitler for believing that science might provide us all with answers for the ecological
crisis and for claiming that humans should recognize other humans according to a principle of solidarity.
You Europeans have disempowered yourselves by getting your past wrong. Look at the United States of America. Its current predicament is
a direct result of our getting its imperial past wrong. You are not far away from us, but you still have a chance to see that the EU is the one
successful answer to the most important question in the history of the modern world.
You have created a huge zone of exception. You have created the largest economy in the history of the world, in a series
of contiguous functioning welfare states and democracies. There is nothing like this anywhere else in the world. Outside the EU, there is still
Ecological panic is all around us, most obviously in the form of global warming. The people who tell us that global warming is not a
problem are the same people who tell us that the refugees and migrants are our enemies, and that some races are different than others.
The EU strengthens the European state. The debate about sovereignty makes no sense. The EU makes European states stronger internally
by supporting the welfare state. The EU protects them externally because it is the most powerful buffer in the world against the forces of
Think about the Holocaust. Jews were sent to Treblinka because the food they consumed was judged to be worth more than the work they
produced. This is an artifact of the industrial world, judging us just as objects who do physical work. The human rights tradition answers that
each of us is an irreducibly different human being.
Today, human rights are challenged in a different way. The digital world reduces us to our most predictable and simplest responses.
It turns us into caricatures of ourselves, into instruments of faraway commercial and political entities.
Unlike any other entity in the world, the EU has made progress toward digital human rights. The EU can protect humanity by resisting
the monopoly of big American companies, by resisting the digitization of education, and by letting journalists expose more facts.
Memory can go into reassuring myth or into history. You Europeans ran the world for half a millennium, created something new in the
second half of the 20th century, and now bear particular responsibility for how things turn out in the 21st. In the questions of ecological panic,
state destruction, and dehumanization, the EU has more power than any other entity on Earth. The history will lead to pain, but it will also
lead to power.
UN Report: UK Workhouses
UN rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston compares Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses and warns that unless
austerity is ended, the UK's poorest people face lives that are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short".
In his final report, he accuses UK government ministers of imposing policies since 2010 that have led to the systematic immiseration of
a significant part of the population and warns that worse could be yet to come for the most vulnerable if Brexit proceeds.
AR The UK establishment looks after its own. The rest can fend for themselves. Social solidarity has failed in the UK.
Brexit offers a smokescreen for the immiseration of the working poor, who in an age of increasing automation will soon be redundant
anyway. Welfare cuts will cull the "useless eaters" [nutzlose Fresser] and prepare the way for more drastic social engineering.
The UK establishment can change — or be changed.
2019 May 21
A Dog's Breakfast
Theresa May was monstered from all sides tonight after she offered a vote on a second referendum
in a last push to deliver her Brexit bill.
The PM made an emotional plea for MPs to get on board with her "bold" package:
▸ Tried to reassure Brexiteers by saying the government is still seeking alternative arrangements
to avoid the Irish backstop
▸ Told Labour MPs she would seek legal guarantees that workers' protections will be just as good
in the UK as in the EU
▸ Said MPs will be able to decide between a temporary customs union with the EU and the
government's customs proposals
May: "If MPs vote against the second reading of this bill, they are voting to stop Brexit."
A Unity Alliance
A "bold and ambitious" alliance combining Liberal Democrats, Christchurch Independents Group, Poole People's Party, Labour, Greens, and
other independents is now at the helm of the £700 million Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole (BCP) council.
The Unity Alliance was elected at the first full council meeting at Bournemouth University on Tuesday night. The new leader is
Poole Lib Dem councillor Vikki Slade.
AR At least I exchanged a few friendly words with Vikki last Tuesday at a hustings for SW region European parliamentary
election candidates to present themselves.
2019 May 20
Islam and the West
For three centuries, the Ottoman empire was the unsettling Other to Western Europe. Western thinkers used what they knew about Islam and its world to
make their points.
Westerners praised the discipline of Ottoman armies, the visible piety of Muslim citizens, and the orderliness of Levantine
households in order to reproach their own societies. They deplored Ottoman tyranny and cruelty, praised Ottoman discipline and efficiency, magnified
the Ottoman threat, or predicted the collapse of the empire, as it suited them.
Polemicists in the Byzantine empire had viewed Islam as a distorted form of Christianity, a heresy. In the medieval West, Muslims were
simply infidels, like pagans or idolaters, and Muhammad was seen as an ambitious fraud. But as confidence in claims to supernatural revelation
weakened, there was a gradual recognition that any claim to an authority based on revelation could be seen as fraud.
Western writers described Ottoman polity as despotic. In contrast to Western monarchies, the Ottoman sovereign was not embedded in a
complex of subsidiary jurisdictions or bound by feudal reciprocities. Just as the Muslim religious world presented an austere landscape purged of
the clutter of saints, sacraments, and priests, so the Muslim political environment offered a starker picture.
This could be set out as a condemnation of Ottoman polity. It could also be seen as a more positive pattern for the modernising trends
in Western monarchies. Just as a Unitarian rejecting the Christian Trinity might see Islam as an early template for doctrinal reform, a political
theorist might consider the Sultan as the single source of legitimacy to be an appealing model for the rational state.
The Ottoman empire prompted Europeans to think about religion and politics. Arguments about Islam and Christianity address the future
in western Europe.
AR Rowan is admirably thoughtful and wise on this topic.
2019 May 19
America Versus Iran
Iran is a major nation with 80 million people, 450,000 battle-hardened troops, and a huge stockpile of weapons, plus heavily armed proxies on the
border of Israel. A war would have global effects.
America claims that the ruling mullahs are close to developing nuclear weapons, that the regime sponsors world terrorism, and that
it threatens US troops in the region. Israeli intelligence agency Mossad say Iran is planning strikes against US bases in Iraq. The US Congress
wants to see proof.
President Trump unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions in return for Iranian guarantees it would
not develop nuclear weapons. Iran had stuck to its side of the bargain. Its Shia militias and ally Hezbollah had fought against the Islamic State
and its secret service has helped combat the Afghan Taliban.
The driving force for a new war in the Mideast is an unlikely alliance of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Saudis and Emiratis want to crush Iran. These autocratic Sunni monarchies feel menaced by a Shia Islamic republic. Israel sees Iran as a
threat and points to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The alliance seeks US military power. US national security adviser John Bolton is a foreign policy hawk and loathes international
organizations. He wants to overthrow the Iranian regime.
Iran may abandon its nuclear restraint. The stakes are high. War could raise the price of oil.
Eurovision Song Contest 2019
The Observer, 0006 BST
The Netherlands Win
The battle for top spot in the Eurovision song contest was a tight fight between Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, and North Macedonia.
The public voted Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands with his ballad Arcade the winner, with a total of 492 points. His haunting
track was already a big hit on streaming services. This is the first Dutch win since 1975.
The Eurovision show brought together acts from 41 countries. The UK finished last in the final, with 16 points. The contest was
staged in Israel.
AR Iceland were crap, Madonna was didactic, the staging was great.
Planet Discoveries Pile Up
Since its launch in April 2018, the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found hundreds more exoplanets orbiting nearby stars.
But a mysterious gap in their sizes shows we need new ideas on how planets are made.
The galaxy hosts a lot of small planets measuring 2 to 4 times the radius of Earth and others about the same size as Earth.
But for some reason, planets with radii 1.5 to 2 times that of Earth are rare. This "Fulton gap" first appeared in the findings of the Kepler
TESS deputy science director Sara Seager sees three main ideas:
⦿ Perhaps bigger planets hold on to their atmosphere, and so look even bigger, while smaller
ones lose it and look smaller.
⦿ Perhaps the size gap results directly from how planets form in the primordial gas and dust
around the young star.
⦿ Perhaps as midsized planets radiate away their internal heat, they blow off their atmosphere,
leaving them below the gap.
In many exoplanet systems, smaller worlds tend to orbit close to their host stars, and bigger planets are more distant.
Small planets could lose their atmospheres, and mass, to the searing heat and UV radiation of their stars.
Super-Earth or mini-Neptune planets are rock balls shrouded either in thick clouds of hydrogen gas or in water. Computer
simulations suggest they are water worlds, either fluid all the way down or compressed into forms such as superionic ice deep below the
TESS will survey the whole sky and will focus on nearby stars.
2019 May 18
The axion is a particle that may be produced in the early universe. I have no idea if the axion is real. Everything theoretical physicists do is speculative,
and likely wrong, except for things we get right.
The existence of the axion was originally hypothesized to prevent particles that we know to be real from developing properties that we are
pretty sure they don't have. It exists to stop the standard model of particle physics from endowing neutrons with properties that are inconsistent with
our laboratory observations.
The neutron has no overall electric charge. But it is made of quarks, which do have a charge. The mystery that the axion clears up is why
the distribution of positive and negative charges has precisely zero electric dipole moment.
This is all hypothetical. The neutron may have a very small electric dipole moment. But this would create the problem of why it is so small.
Even if the electric dipole moment is zero, it is entirely possible that the axion still doesn't exist. Maybe we need a different approach.
Theoretical physicists ask questions about the nature of the evolution of spacetime and everything in it. We have exactly one universe to
work with, and it operates entirely beyond our control. The best we can do is collect information, by taking images of distant stars and galaxies with
telescopes, by testing ideas about how particles interact with each other, and by detecting gravitational waves.
To interpret this data, we make some mathematical assumptions, and we use the data to hone our assumptions. We develop ideas about what
happened, and then we refine or radically alter those ideas, based on new evidence. Then, we try to convince ourselves and each other that our ideas
are realistic models of the universe.
BoJo Crushes Rivals
Boris Johnson is the clear favourite to be the next prime minister, according to the first poll of Conservative party members since the start
of the leadership contest:
In a head-to-head run-off, Johnson beats Raab by 59 points to 41. But Johnson would be a divisive choice. Some 31% of Tory members think he would be
a poor leader, including 65% of those who voted Remain.
Johnson regards himself as the only candidate capable of taking on Nigel Farage. He is seen by 70% of Tory members as the most likely
figure to win a general election if he became leader.
YouGov interviewed 858 Tory members between May 10 and 16.
2019 May 17
Europe: A Council of Nations
We have improvised our way into an EU that works for our generation. We now have a Europe of nations. The big decisions are made not by Brussels bureaucrats,
or the European parliament, but by national leaders acting in concert.
After a string of big crises, the European Council meets 6 or 7 times a year, peaking at 10 in 2015. In addition, the Eurogroup of finance
ministers usually meets monthly, and the Foreign Affairs Council of foreign ministers at least that.
Probably never before have different countries worked together on such an everyday basis. The biggest states speak loudest in the European
Council, but the smallest get heard too. The Union is not a state but a union of states.
The main federalist project of the previous generation was the euro. That has given us a strong European central bank, the European stability
mechanism, and something like banking union. Otherwise, federalists look on in frustration.
National leaders making decisions together is more democratic than a union run by technocrats. If citizens dislike EU decisions, they can
vote out their leaders. Here is a mix of nationalism and Europe that works for our generation.
Brexit: Cross-Party Talks Fail
After 6 weeks of talks, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn say they can do no cross-party deal to deliver Brexit. Labour was demanding a full and permanent
customs union and legal pledges on future EU environmental and social legislation. May was prepared to agree to a customs union with Brussels only
until next general election.
Corbyn is a Eurosceptic and calculates that without Brexit dominating the political agenda Labour could focus on other issues. But
there is no political mileage to be gained in propping up an unpopular government pushing through a deeply divisive policy. A Brexit deal would
have alienated more Labour voters than it satisfied.
More than a third of Labour MPs are disillusioned with Corbyn and hope to reverse Brexit through a second referendum. But Labour
party members are overwhelmingly pro-EU. They will be needed to win a future general election.
May: The End is Nigh
Theresa May has agreed to set a timetable for her departure as prime minister in the first week of June, leading MPs to believe she will trigger a
leadership contest before the summer.
Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, said she would agree a timetable for the election of a new leader
after her Brexit legislation returns to parliament for a last rejection in the first week of June.
Boris: The Second Coming
Boris Johnson has said he will run for the Conservative party leadership after Theresa May stands down. Asked at a business event in Manchester if he
would be a candidate, he replied: "Of course I'm going to go for it."
AR Man the barricades!
2019 May 16
Europe Must Unite
Europe needs to reposition itself in a changed world. The old certainties no longer apply. America, China, and Russia are forcing us, time and again,
to find common positions.
Many people are concerned about Europe. Our political power is not yet commensurate with our economic strength. I feel a duty to join
others in making sure that Europe has a future.
This is a time when we need to fight for our principles and fundamental values. Seven decades of peace no longer suffice to justify
the European project. Without forward-looking arguments to justify Europe, the European peace project would also be in jeopardy.
It is heart-breaking to see how the situation on environmental protection has worsened in so many ways. There is clearly a lack of
consistent political action, on a global scale. What is key is for us to be economically successful. That is my greatest worry.
Nine countries aim to attain climate neutrality by 2050. I am firmly convinced that this can only be done if one is willing to capture
and store CO2. We could pump CO2 into empty gas fields, but if I wanted to do this in
Germany, people would rightly ask me how realistic it is.
In order for the UK to leave the EU, there needs to be a parliamentary majority in London for, rather than merely against, something.
Should there be anything to negotiate, the European Commission will do so on behalf of the 27 member states, as it has done so far.
Brexit Britain and Weimar Germany
The German Historical Museum has a new exhibition about the Weimar republic, the first sustained German attempt at parliamentary government. It was formed
in the wake of WW1 and destroyed by the Nazis in 1933. It was the ultimate stress test of representative liberal democracy in the face of nationalism,
racism, violence, and populism.
The Berlin exhibition is not just about how democracy unravelled in the decade that followed the first Weimar elections in 1919 but also
about whether something like that may again be happening across Europe in 2019.
Weimar was overwhelmed by a potent narrative of national betrayal and the allure of a strong autocratic government. In Brexit Britain, too,
there is a surging narrative on the right about national betrayal, which seems likely to score heavily in the European polls next week.
Edward O. Wilson
Genesis: The Deep Origins of Society
is one of the most important books I've written.
I invented the Encyclopedia of Life, putting out all the information on all known species. I invented, named, and gave the first synthesis
of sociobiology, which in turn gave birth to the field of evolutionary psychology. My fourth book, The Insect Societies, was a finalist for the
National Book Award, which surprised me.
My 1975 book Sociobiology included new research on the social behavior of primates. I suggested that a lot of human social behavior
could be explained by a natural selection of certain activities and steps, leading to ever more complex group selection.
Some of my colleagues had problems with the idea that there could be instincts in humans. But with time, the notion that this book was harmful
began to fade. Genetics is an effective way to understand many aspects of evolutionary biology and behavior.
Two years later, I received the National Medal of Science from President Jimmy Carter. I also wrote and published a book on sociobiology for
a broader audience, On Human Nature. It won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.
William D. Hamilton had this brilliant idea that social behavior originated with kin selection, where individuals within a group behaved
altruistically toward those they shared the most genes with. The ultimate result of kin selection would be a kind of altruism.
Like me, Martin Nowak and Corina Tarnita had misgivings about kin selection. In 2010, we published a paper asserting that Hamilton's theory
was fundamentally flawed. We felt it could not explain how complex societies arose.
In Genesis, I want to settle the questions about group selection once and for all. Group selection can be exactly defined.
My colleague David Sloan Wilson says that within groups, selfish individuals will defeat altruistic ones. However, in conflict, groups of
altruistic individuals will defeat groups of selfish individuals.
Mathematical models can predict these things with precision. Biological research tests those models. This kind of science will give us a
firmer base on which to save the natural world.
AR Admired his work for years. Must read Genesis.
An icon of my childhood
⦿ The Guardian
Sir Vince Cable with Lib Dem
manifesto for May 23 poll
Trump business losses
over $1 billion
2019 May 15
Brexit: Stand and Fight
In 2016, a substantial majority of Conservative MPs judged quitting the EU to be mistaken. Yet today Jeremy Hunt claims to have become a Brexiteer.
I am convinced that he and others still privately regard Brexit as a ghastly mistake.
Leavers have forged an alliance of convenience with the mob. Closet-Remainer Conservative MPs calculate that most of their voters are
now committed or resigned to Brexit. Resistance is futile.
Such pragmatism requires acceptance of Brexiteer claims that the Irish border issue is a mere technicality, that defiance of "Brussels
bullying" will win concessions, that the US will offer a sweetheart deal, that the UK can unilaterally curb non-EU migration, and that the UK alone
can secure better global trading terms than those available to EU members.
Boris Johnson may be the next Conservative leader and form an Extreme Right Government (ERG). Jeremy Hunt might seek to head off an
ERG by embracing the Brexiteers.
Indulging the mob is dishonourable.
2019 May 14
Gulf War 3?
The United States and Iran are at risk of stumbling into war by accident. Fears are rising of military confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz, amid tension
between Iran and the US over ending the 2015 deal designed to keep Tehran's nuclear ambitions in check.
The Trump administration will not renew exemptions that allow oil buyers to continue importing Iranian crude. Iran retaliated by saying that
it would cut back cooperation under the nuclear deal.
President Trump: "We'll see what happens .. It's going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens, I can tell you that. They're not
going to be happy."
UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt: "We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that
State of the UK
We live in a multipolar world without the assurance provided by unquestioned American dominance. We face a more aggressive Russia and a more assertive China.
We do not know what the balance of power in the world will be in 25 years.
Britain stands for the defence of democratic values. The UK will never leave its great ally, the United States, to perform this task alone.
It is simply not sustainable to expect one NATO ally to spend nearly 4% of its GDP on defence while the others spend between 1 and 2%.
Over the coming decade, we should increase the proportion of GDP we devote to defence. The new domains of space and cyber and the
capabilities of artificial intelligence will transform the conduct of warfare. The conflicts of tomorrow could well start with a cyber-attack, then
escalate into strikes by hypersonic missiles and unmanned aircraft.
We cannot defend democracy if people believe we are ignoring it at home. Many feel that modern capitalism only works for a privileged few.
When it comes to civic decision making, people want more power and agency over the decisions taken by people in authority. We need a renewal of the
social contract between state and citizen.
Forces in Dimensions 8 and 24
Maryna Viazovska had already found the densest way to pack balls in dimensions 8 and 24. She and her team have now used the configurations solving
the packing problem in those two dimensions to solve much harder problems.
In each dimension higher than 3, we can construct a configuration like a tennis ball pyramid. As the dimension increases, the gaps
between the balls grow. At dimension 8, you have enough room to fit new balls into the gaps. Doing so produces a highly symmetric configuration
called the E8 lattice. In dimension 24, you get the Leech lattice by fitting extra balls into the gaps.
These two lattices crop up in one area of mathematics after another, from number theory to analysis to mathematical physics.
Viazovska considered repulsive forces. The rule that balls do not overlap translates into an infinitely strong repulsion when their
centers are closer together than their diameter. For any one of these forces, the challenge is to find the ground state for an infinite collection
of particles. One can find lower bounds on the energy of the ground state by means of auxiliary functions.
In dimensions 8 and 24, the bounds came close to the energy of E8 and the Leech lattice. For packing balls, Viazovska had found an
auxiliary function that gave a bound matching the energy of E8 or the Leech lattice. In the case of a repulsive force in dimension 8 or 24, she
found auxiliary functions for every repulsive force.
2019 May 13
The Civilizational State
After the Cold War, Western elites assumed that the worldwide spread of liberal values would create a new global order based on sovereign states. But
today we are witnessing the end of the liberal world order and the rise of the civilizational state. In China and Russia, the ruling classes reject
Western liberalism and the expansion of a global market society.
The rise of Russia and China is weakening the West. Their leaders reject universal human rights, the rule of law, and a free press in
the name of cultural difference. Geopolitics is no longer simply about the economy or security but largely sociocultural and civilizational.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping champions a model of socialism with Chinese characteristics fusing a Leninist state with neo-Confucian culture.
Vladimir Putin defines Russia as a civilizational state that is neither Western nor Asian but uniquely Eurasian. Donald Trump rails against the
European multicultural dilution of Western civilization.
Geopolitics has turned into a contest between alternative versions of civilized norms. Within the West, there is a growing gap between
a cosmopolitan EU and a nativist US. Brexit, Trump, and the populist insurgency sweeping continental Europe mark a revolt against liberalism.
The idea that Western civilization represents the forward march of history toward a single normative order rests on a common cultural
heritage of Greco-Roman culture and Judeo-Christian norms. Liberalism is eroding these foundations by promoting standards that glorify greed, sex,
and violence. Too many liberals ignore the achievements that make the West a recognizable civilization.
The rejection of Western universalism by the elites in Russia and China challenges the idea of the nation state as the international
norm for political organization. But neither the West nor China and Russia can resist the disruptive forces of technology and economic
globalization. The world is sliding into a soft totalitarianism.
David H. Freedman
Pablo Jarillo-Herrero has found superconductivity in twisted bilayer graphene, a monatomic sheet of carbon crystal on top of another one but rotated to
leave the two layers 9.2 milliradian askew.
Allan MacDonald had seen how the misalignment of the two sheets creates an angle-dependent moiré pattern. He reckoned the amount
of energy a free electron in the cell needs to tunnel between the two graphene sheets varies with rotation angle. He calculated that when the angle
decreases to 9.2 mrad, the tunneling energy falls to zero.
For Jarillo-Herrero and his team, the challenge was to create an ultraclean, highly homogeneous pair of graphene sheets and to overcome
their natural opposition to being askew. The sheets had to be in near vacuum and cooled to almost 0 K to give a chance of seeing correlated electron
behavior. In 2017, his team produced a new device that behaved as an insulator in an electric field, but when they increased the field it suddenly
became a superconductor.
Magic-angle twisted bilayer graphene can illuminate the mysterious properties of superconductivity. It seems to act like a cuprate, a
ceramic in which superconductivity can occur at temperatures up to about 140 K. But cuprates are complex crystals that superconduct only when
precisely doped with impurities. Twisted bilayer graphene is just carbon.
The stakes are huge. Reducing the energy loss in electric power transmission would boost economies and cut harmful emissions around
the world. Qubit fabrication could usher in the rise of quantum computers.
2019 May 12
The UN report into biodiversity warns that human overpopulation is harming the species we rely on for survival. A background level of extinction is normal.
But now we face a mass extinction brought about by humans.
Scientists have catalogued only a small fraction of all species. We know far too little about which bricks in the pile might, if removed,
topple whole structures. Complex ecosystems are extremely hard to recreate once damaged.
We are out of our depth trying to fathom or control the biosphere's complex connections. It is hard to disentangle the threat to species
from climate change, for example, because each problem exacerbates the other. Species find it harder to survive as temperatures warm and a loss of
carbon sinks accelerates the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Scientists have been warning of the danger for decades.
The human population is still growing. The global population increased from 1.5 billion in 1900 to 6.1 billion in 2000. The UN forecasts
global population growing to 11 billion in 2100.
Having more children is not in our interest as a species. It is irresponsible for governments to welcome the UN report while promoting
increases in population.
2019 May 11
American presidential daughter-in-law Lara Trump opined on Fox Business that Angela Merkel's welcome of refugees in 2015 had been Germany's downfall and
one of the worst things to ever happen to Germany. She probably hasn't visited Germany lately.
German efforts to tackle the influx of more than a million refugees have had mixed results. Deporting those who can't claim asylum and
integrating those who can stay has been a struggle. But 400,000 now have jobs or are in training. For Germans, downfall was 1945, not 2015.
Robert Kagan worries that a failure of the European project might see the return of the German Question. He admires Germany's democratic
transformation but says: "Think of Europe today as an unexploded bomb, its detonator intact and functional, its explosives still live."
No nation has profited more handsomely from the postwar European order than Germany. None has a greater interest in preserving it.
The real risk to Europe's prosperity and safety is a Germany that seeks to hedge against a bullying and erratic America with the help of Russia
2019 May 10
Lily Kuo, 0458 UTC
Last-minute talks in Washington between Chinese vice premier Liu He and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer have failed to salvage months of talks
on a deal. On Friday US tariffs on Chinese goods were raised to 25% from 10%.
China: "The Chinese side deeply regrets that it will have to take necessary countermeasures .. It is hoped that the US and the Chinese
side will work together to resolve existing problems through cooperation and consultation."
Marcus du Sautoy
A mathematician is a pattern searcher. In my own research, I am trying to understand the world of symmetry. A typical day might involve some hours in
deep mathematical meditation at my desk.
Creativity comes in waves. When you've hit your first peak, there will inevitably be a fallow period before the next peak arrives.
Mathematics is our best tool for making predictions and planning.
2019 May 9
The Brexit Question
Andy Ross vs Ben Aston
A public debate, Southbourne
My speaking notes (PDF, 11 slides, 55 KB)
Superionic ice is a new phase of water, black and hot, and four times as dense as normal ice. Across the solar system, more water probably exists as
superionic ice filling the interiors of Uranus and Neptune than in any other phase, including the liquid form in oceans on Earth.
Scientists have already discovered 18 architectures of ice crystal. After ice I, which comes in two forms, the rest are numbered II to XVII.
Superionic ice is ice XVIII.
Ice XVIII is part solid, part liquid, where the oxygen atoms form a cubic lattice, but the ionized hydrogen atoms spill free, flowing like
a liquid through the rigid cage of oxygens. It conducts electricity, like a metal, with protons playing the usual role of electrons. The loose protons
also boost its entropy, making it stable and raising its melting point.
Marius Millot and colleagues
hit water with laser blasts between diamond anvils. As the water began crystalizing into nanoscale ice cubes, more laser beams vaporized
a sliver of iron next to the sample, flooding the crystalizing water with X-rays, which then diffracted from the ice crystals, allowing the team to
discern their structure. Ice XVIII has a cubic lattice with oxygen atoms at every corner and the center of each face.
Uranus and Neptune have lumpy and complex magnetic fields, with more than two poles, misaligned with the rotation axis. One way to produce
them would be to confine the conducting fluid responsible for the dynamo into a thin outer shell of the planet, instead of letting it reach down into
the core. But the idea that these planets might have solid cores seemed unrealistic.
Inside Uranus and Neptune, a thick mantle of superionic ice might begin at about 8 Mm down. That would limit most dynamo action to
shallower depths, accounting for their unusual fields. Superionic ice could be common throughout the universe.
2019 May 8
Trump Power Play
The New York Times
President Trump asserts executive privilege to shield redacted parts of the Mueller report.
Brexit Power Play
Downing Street says Theresa May will not quit as prime minister until the UK leaves the EU.
Mathematics has elevated the formulation of a conjecture into high art. A great conjecture must meet a number of stringent criteria:
1 It should be nontrivial, or not too easy to prove.
2 It also has to be deep. Once the conjecture is proved, it is not so much the endpoint of an arduous journey
but rather the starting point of an even greater adventure. For example, the Riemann hypothesis unlocks many other insights and suggests vast
3 It must have substantial evidence. The first 10 trillion cases of the Riemann hypothesis have been checked
numerically using computers. But all this supporting material does not satisfy mathematicians. They demand a conclusive proof.
4 It helps if the challenge can be stated concisely. The conciseness of a great conjecture adds to its
5 The conjecture may be refuted. For two millennia, people tried to prove that Euclid's fifth postulate can
be derived from the other four axioms of planar geometry. Then mathematicians constructed examples of non-Euclidian geometry, which led to Einstein's
curved spacetime. Similarly, when Kurt Gödel published his incompleteness theorem in 1931, he essentially answered in the negative one of
Hilbert's problems about the consistency of arithmetic, but he also induced a blossoming that led to the development of modern computers.
2019 May 7
Breaking Brexit, New Series
Theresa May's unofficial deputy David Lidington confirms UK will hold European elections later this month, as MPs run out of time to agree a
Brexit deal before the vote.
Today, we are friends and natural partners, bound together by our common experience, mutual interests and shared values. But whatever the shape of
our future relationship, it is more clear to me than it has ever been that the bonds between us will, and must, endure, and that our young people,
and future generations, will have as much cause to cherish those bonds as our generation has had. Our countries and people have been through so
As we look towards the future, I can only hope that:
♣ We can also pledge to redouble our commitment to each other and to the ties between us.
♣ We can ensure that our continent will never again see the division and conflict of the past.
♣ We will continue to be an indispensable force for good in our world.
♣ The friendships and partnerships that bind us together will continue.
2019 May 6
Destruction of nature is as big a threat to humanity as climate change
"The evidence is incontestable. Our destruction of biodiversity and ecosystem services has reached levels that threaten our well-being at least as much
as human-induced climate change."
A major UN report on the state of nature around the world is mostly grim reading. We humans have already significantly altered three-quarters
of all land and two-thirds of the oceans. More than a third of land and three-quarters of freshwater resources are devoted to crops or livestock.
Our expanding farms and cities are leaving less room for wildlife. The other major causes are the direct exploitation of wildlife such as
hunting, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive species. Climate change is set to become ever more destructive.
The aim of the report is to provide an authoritative scientific basis for international action. All countries except the USA have ratified
the 1992 UN Convention of Biodiversity and are supposed to be conserving biodiversity and promoting its sustainable use. Despite this, more than 80% of
the agreed international targets for 2020 will not be met.
⦿ Carola Radke / Museum für Naturkunde Berlin
A million species are now threatened with extinction
"The beginning of
the end of Brexit"
Sir Vince Cable
"Finding yourself takes as long
as it takes .. learning how to
be kind to yourself while
you're discovering who
you are is something I
wish for everybody."
Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating. Grave impacts on people
around the world are now likely, warns the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson: "The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly
than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide."
Around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades. The average abundance of native
species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than a third of all marine mammals are
Global goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability cannot be met by current trajectories. Goals
for 2030 may only be achieved through transformative changes.
To bring change in today's world, simply electing the right politicians is not enough. The lesson of history is that only violence can ensure the
redistribution of wealth. The big equalizing moments in history shared one common root: massive and violent disruptions of the established order.
War is one horseman of the apocalypse. World War II hugely reduced inequality in the United States, Europe, and Japan.
Another horseman is plague. The outbreak of the bubonic plague in 14th-century Eurasia killed a third of the population and made
labor scarce. As a result, wages grew, and the gap between rich and poor narrowed. But inequality went up when the population began to
The rich are beneficiaries of the state. If states fall apart, everybody is worse off, but the rich have more to lose. Their wealth
is wiped out by the destruction of the state, as in the fall of the Mayan civilization or Chinese dynasties.
I am not advocating war, but repeating the same old ideas ignores the lessons of history. To create lasting change, something big
has to happen.
AR The UK was also equalized by WW2 but has relapsed far enough to forget the value of the EU.
2019 May 5
We Can Stop Brexit
Liberal Democrat members are strongly committed to carrying their success through into the European elections. We have a clear mission to stop
People ask if there is anything that can be done to stop the remain vote fragmenting. European elections operate on
proportional representation, but the system is still unforgiving to split voting.
We hope is that voters will think hard about who can make an impact. Lib Dem MEPs have a strong record of campaigning on
the environment, consumer protection, and animal welfare.
People have said for decades they would support the Lib Dems if more other people were doing so. Liberal Democrats need the
support of everyone who wants to stop Brexit.
"Just get on with Brexit" — really?
Those final results, expressed as % change from 2015:
[hard Leavers, want out at all costs]
[soft Leavers, want deal if possible]
[undecided, mixed messages]
[Remainers, want hard EU green regs]
AR Mike is the founder of
Scientists for EU.
2019 May 4
Local Elections: Summary
UK prime minister Theresa May will be told by senior Conservative party members that she must set a date for her departure next week. The party
was given its worst drubbing in local elections in almost a quarter of a century.
Conservatives lost 1334 councillors and control of 44 councils. Labour lost 82 councillors and 6 councils. Lib Dems gained
703 councillors and 10 councils. Greens added 194 councillors. UKIP lost 144 councillors.
Local Elections: England
AR On discrepant numbers, see last FT checkpoint below.
Local Elections: Bournemouth-Christchurch-Poole
Final results for the new BCP Council: 36 Conservative, 15 Liberal Democrat, 11 independent, 7 Poole People, 3 Labour, 2 Green,
1 Alliance for Local Living, 1 UKIP
Overall result: No overall control, turnout 33%.
Local Elections: Lessons
✓ Revenge of the Remainers: The Tories suffered their worst results in parts of England where most
voted to Remain in the 2016 EU referendum. The Conservatives loss is the worst since 1995.
✓ Lib Dems unleashed: The Liberal Democrats were the clear victors. LD gains were
spread evenly across Remain and Leave voting areas, maybe due to anger at both big parties.
✓ Labour pains: Tory setbacks were not matched by Labour gains. The vote for Labour
held up in strongly Remain areas. Most councils where Labour lost control were in majority Leave areas.
✓ No business as usual: The two big parties now have their lowest share of
councillors since 2010. Extrapolations of the vote to the entire UK put both Conservatives and Labour at 28%.
✓ Not all numbers say the same: Some calculations differ on the changes, since
there have been boundary changes, reductions in the size of assemblies, defections, and by-elections.
AR Greens did very well, perhaps thanks to Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion.
2019 May 3
The UK should resile from its decision to leave the EU
Most of the votes cast in England in the 2016 referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union were in favour of leaving.
The result was marginal and unexpected, and it was widely seen as having been driven by a mixture of anger and pride. Cooler heads continue to
say it provides no good basis for redirecting national policy.
There is still time for UK politicians to resile from that decision. For the sake of all we hold dear, defying the populists who
would drag us all into anarchy and chaos, they should show some
PDF, 10 pages, 7000 words, 330 KB
2019 May 2
Committee on Climate Change
The CCC recommends a new emissions target for the UK: net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050. For Scotland, it recommends a net-zero date of 2045,
reflecting Scotland's greater relative capacity to remove emissions. For Wales, it recommends a 95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.
A net-zero GHG target for 2050 will deliver on the commitment the UK made by signing the Paris Agreement. It is achievable with known
technologies, alongside improvements in people's lives, and within the expected economic cost that parliament accepted when it legislated the
existing 2050 target for an 80% reduction from 1990.
Gamma rays radiate from the Sun seven times more abundantly than expected. A narrow bandwidth of frequencies around 10 YHz is absent. The gamma-ray signal
also extends to higher frequencies than predicted, and it varies across the face of the Sun and throughout the 11-year solar cycle.
Cosmic rays from outer space get mirrored by the solar magnetic field. On their way out, the rays collide with atoms in the solar atmosphere
and fizzle in a flurry of gamma radiation. The mirroring process is efficient enough to give a faint glow of gamma rays.
The NASA Fermi gamma-ray space telescope detects many more gamma rays during solar minimum. This makes sense if cosmic rays are the source.
During solar minimum, more cosmic rays can plunge into the solar magnetic field and get mirrored, instead of being deflected sooner by the turbulent
tangle of field lines in the inner solar system.
The solar magnetic field remains poorly understood. These fresh clues about the structure of the magnetic field could help explain why
the Sun changes polarity every 11 years.
UK Defence Secretary Sacked
UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson is a minnow who got himself fired because of his ambition. The prime minister holds him responsible for the leak of
a discussion in the National Security Council last week. The leak enabled the Telegraph to name five ministers who had attacked the involvement of
Huawei in the UK telecoms system and to report that Theresa May had overridden them.
As an error of judgment, what Williamson did was monumental. No one will be sorry to see him go.
"Perhaps [his] threats over military spending, and his boast that he made Theresa May and could break her, will have been as
responsible for his downfall as his alleged leaking was."
2019 May 1
Thomas L. Friedman
We are at a moment when the world is experiencing four big changes at once:
△ Climate: Heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires are getting more extreme.
△ Globalization: Our interconnected world is becoming an interdependent one.
△ Work: Machines can often handle information better than human beings.
△ Communications: Cloud devices empower people to act with global reach.
We are seeing the erosion of democracy and order. We need leaders who appreciate that the challenges destabilizing the world today
are global in nature.
Black Hole Jets
James Miller-Jones et al.
Black holes accreting mass from companion stars can emit powerful relativistic jets. For stellar-mass black holes, the accretion flow that launches
or redirects the jets shows precession due to frame dragging when the spin axis is misaligned with the orbital plane of the companion star.
We model a rapidly changing jet orientation on a time scale of minutes to hours in the black-hole
X-ray binary V404 Cygni as the
precession of a vertically extended slim disk that arises from the high accretion rate. Similar dynamics should govern any misaligned accreting
The NASA Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope appears to be picking up too many gamma rays from the galactic center. Perhaps dark matter particles in the
center annihilate in a burst of gamma rays. Or perhaps the rays shine from pulsars too dim to be seen individually.
Rebecca Leane and Tracy Slatyer modeled the Milky Way galaxy with stars, gas, dust, and known pulsars. Then they added dark matter and
further small pulsars and saw surprising results. As more dark matter was added, the more the model mistook that dark matter for pulsars.
The International Space Station Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) experiment has detected more antiprotons than expected, another
possible sign of dark matter. The dark matter that would match the AMS data could also cause a gamma glow in the galactic center.
Leane: "Potentially we are seeing the first signal of dark matter."